With less than a week before the first-ever democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan, violence across the country has increased dramatically with daily explosions and gunfights. Dozens have been killed in these assaults. Taliban insurgents have vowed to derail the presidential and provincial council elections on April 5 with bombings and assassinations.
On March 29 Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) headquarters in Kabul was attacked by four Taliban militants. The insurgents were all gunned down. On March 28 the Roots of Peace guesthouse was stormed by the Taliban, resulting in a child's death. In another attack on Kabul's Serena Hotel March 21, nine people including an AFP journalist, Sardar Ahmad, and an election observer, were killed.
Afghans continue to live out their normal lives in spite of ongoing concerns over the insurgent attacks. Syed Anwar tweeted after the attack on IEC headquarters:
Despite 5 hours fighting, attack on #IEC still #Kabul is shining, life is normal. pic.twitter.com/iSOR62FH1v
— Syed Anwar (@Sayed_Anwer) March 29, 2014
Massood Sanjer's tweet reads:
Two attacks at the same time. Kabul and Kunar. Kabul bank branch in Kanur and IEC office in Kabul. Firing continues. — Massood Sanjer (@MassoodSanjer) March 25, 2014
LT. Mustafa Kazemi tweets quoting Sardar Ahmad's nephew:
Sardar Ahmad's nephew: “I have no message for the Taliban. One can communicate with humans but not with animals.” — LT. Mustafa Kazemi (@combatjourno) March 22, 2014
Lina Rozbih-Haidari, an Afghan journalist, outraged by Friday's guesthouse attack, posted on her official Facebook page:
When claiming responsibility for terrorist attacks, Taliban reason that they are targeting foreigners. While looking at pictures of today's incident, I saw these foreigners, including unarmed women and children, who mostly work for humanitarian organizations and live with their families in these guesthouses.
This is Taliban's jihad: targeting unarmed Afghan and foreign women and children in hotels, polling stations, bazars, schools, mosques, during praying, during work……..
Can wars be fought more cowardly than this? Indeed Afghanistan has fallen into the hands of a hypocrite, weak, immoral and irrational enemy. They call it Islam. Be brave enough and fight bravely! Not cowardly by killing innocent and defenseless women, men and children.
While Emma Graham-Harrison, the Guardian correspondent for Afghanistan, tweeted after the assault on IEC headquarters:
Afghan election commission headquarters under attack, their spokesman says from inside safe room. Fourth Kabul attack in 10 days
— Emma Graham-Harrison (@_EmmaGH) March 29, 2014
Worried about the Taliban's future targets, Marzia Faraz's tweets:
First int'l observers in #HotelSerena, then #IEC regional office, foreigners at the guesthouse now #IEC HQ, what could be the next target?
— Marzia Faraz (@Marzofaraz) March 29, 2014
Another angry tweet related to the attack on Serena Hotel:
Karzai, NDS, and Kabul Serena security must answer for the killing of #SardarAhmad … The screams of his family still in my head.
— Gharghasht (@Gharghasht) March 22, 2014
In the past, Afghan elections were characterized by a general lack of political awareness among the public. However, the 2014 campaign has seen a great difference – candidates are actively trying to reach out to citizens, traveling to different provinces in order to engage with a diverse, dispersed electorate. Posters of the candidates are all over the country and their televised debates were viewed live by millions of Afghans. Despite insecurity and definite possibilities of electoral fraud, Afghans are excited by the possibility of engaging in a genuinely competitive vote. Ahmad Shuja tweeted a photo which shows people waiting in a long line to get their voting cards.
Police trying to turn excess registrants away, but people unwilling to go away without a voter card. #afgelect2014 pic.twitter.com/gOd52Thv2T
— Ahmad Shuja احمدشجاع (@AhmadShuja) March 29, 2014
Afghan journalist, Farzad Lami, referring to the recent survey conducted by the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA), tweeted:
Despite of security concerns 75% of Afghans want to participate in presidential elections scheduled for April 5. A new survey indicates.
— Farzad Lami (@FarzadLameh) March 26, 2014
Lotfullah Najafizada's tweet quoted a first-time-voter:
“My best weapon to fight the Taliban is my voter card,” said first-time-voter Ahmad, calling on Afghans to get armed with voter cards now.
— Lotfullah Najafizada (@LNajafizada) March 29, 2014
Marshal Öljaitü tweeted:
#Kabul: 5 attacks in 8 days. Desperate Taliban. High turnout in the Afghan election will be the public's verdict against Taliban.
— Marshal Öljaitü (@aushpaz) March 30, 2014
Some candidates have also expressed their concerns about the insurgency attacks and the upcoming elections. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, a presidential candidate, tweets:
We condemn the terrorist attacks on civilians. It gives us more reasons to work harder for ensuring a better and peaceful future for Afghans
— Ashraf Ghani (@ashrafghani) March 29, 2014
A tweet from Abdul Rashid Dostum, a candidate for Vice President, claims that the coming election will be successful because Afghans have strong faith in it.
Enemies of Afghan people won't succeed in their inauspicious deeds. People are committed for elections.
— Abdul Rashid Dostum (@ARashidDostum) March 25, 2014
While Zalmai Rassoul‘s campaign team posted on twitter, condemning the attacks:
We strongly condemn yesterday’s #Insurgent attack on Kabul Serena Hotel and today’s explosion in Khakrez district of Kandahar province.
— Dr. Zalmai Rassoul (@Zalmai_Rassoul) March 21, 2014
Afghanistan's lame duck incumbent Hamid Karzai refuses to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States until after the elections. So far, the domestic security situation makes an unpromising background for this crucial vote. Among the Taliban's most recent victims have been a candidate in the provincial elections, foreign NGO workers and staff at IEC offices across the country.