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Cablegate: Afghan Elections Situation Report Six - 1600 Local, August

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBUL #2439/01 2321115
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 201115Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0958
INFO RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 7776
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 3803
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS KABUL 002439

DEPT FOR AFGHAN ELECTIONS TASK FORCE

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM AF

SUBJECT: Afghan Elections Situation Report Six - 1600 Local, August
20, 2009

1. (SBU) The next sitrep is scheduled for 1800 local on August 20.


------------
Atmospherics
------------

2. (SBU) UN Special Representative Kai Eide met with Ambassadors at
1300 local time to convey his first impressions of the day of
voting. He said that generally, people want to vote but that
turnout varies greatly - from lower in the South, medium/medium-plus
in Kabul and Herat, and high in the north. UNAMA decided to ask the
IEC to extend polling hours if possible. There are apparently
problems with the ink, he said, and noted that Bashardost and Ghani
claimed their ink "washed off" their fingers; UNAMA Political
Director Galbraith termed this a "minor issue."

3. (U) In one example, in Farah province most of people voting in
the districts seem to be genuinely interested in the process and
wish to exercise their right to vote. They have expressed optimism
as a result of the vote and hope that their vote will bring
prosperity and change to their areas. The city voters seemed to be
waiting for the heat of the day and also for news of security
operations to control insurgents that are firing rockets
indiscriminately into the city. Despite taking casualties, the ANSF
have maintained security at all the polling stations and have not
abandoned any of the stations despite some attacks.

-------------
Voter Turnout
-------------

4. (SBU)
RC East: Nuristan reports that polling is taking place in the
majority of the districts in high numbers, with reports that some
polling sites are seeing "more voters than ever" despite some
reports of long range attacks. Two centers did not open due to
destroyed ballots or security issues, despite the best efforts of
local officials.
Nangahar reports lines to vote, although there was one explosion
near a mosque polling site, with no casualties. The southern
districts report small arms fire, but voting continues.
Kunar reports that morning attacks throughout the province initially
decreased turnout, but that voters had returned to the polls as of
1230. While turnout of women at Asadabad polling sites is reported
to be strong, there has been lower female turnout in the districts.
Kunar says voting is occurring in all sites but two.

Laghman reports that many people are voting and it is peaceful
across the province.
RC West: Farah reports a higher than normal number of security
incidents in the province. Rockets have been fired into the city
without much damage and only one reported casualty. Other districts
appear to be calm. The District of Pusht Rud has expected heavy
fighting with the ANSF and insurgent fighting pitched battles
throughout the day.
RC North: Balkh reports that, according to the district field
coordinator and local staff in Watalabad district, turnout was lower
than expected, with only 265 males and 39 females having voted as of
12:00pm. Following a Taliban warning the evening of August 19, IEC
staff in Charbolak District negotiated guarantees from village
elders and opened polling centers only one hour late.
---------
Security
---------

5. (U) The traditionally dangerous areas in the South and East
report numerous small attacks, although there have been no major
attacks thus far that have significantly affected polling.

Provincial reports by region follow:

Regional Command (RC) - North: No update from sitrep five.

RC South: No update from sitrep five.

RC East: Paktika reports a polling site in Naka was taking indirect
fire, that ANSF has surrounded two suicide bombers in a madrassa in
Orgun-East and that a rocket may have struck near the hospital in
Orgun. Bermel and Gomal districts also reported taking rounds.
Paktya reports 2 IED strikes, 2 IED finds, and small arms fire with
rockets directed at the following polling stations: Roquinan,
Mirzaka, Ahmadabad district, and Ahmadabad DC. There was also an
explosion in Gardez that is being investigated.
Khost reports an attack against a polling site in Nadar Shah Khot

(no damage reported), small arms fire and RPG attacks against the
Tani DC (no damage) and a polling site in Gorbuz district, and small
arms fire against the Bak DC.
Kapisa reports that people are voting, despite attacks on ANSF bases
(four so far today).
Logar reports that as of 13:00 there was an active gun battle
between the Taliban and ANSF in Chark District. Villagers are
staying indoors and not voting.
Nangarhar reports that a possibly large Taliban force engaged the
polling station in Pachiragem District with small arms and RPG fire.

Kunar reports that attacks (small arms fire, rockets, and mortars)
have occurred throughout Kunar Province; however, the targets are
often not polling sites but official government buildings and
installations.

----------------------------
Voting & Counting Activities
----------------------------

6. (U) Kabul: A preliminary glance at several dozen reports from
Embassy observers show that the overall process appears to be
working fairly well, although the polls remain subdued. There are
several trends that are notable and appear to be fairly common.
Many observers report that polling stations tended to open 15 to 30
minutes late but without incident. More observers noted that the
punches used to place a hole in voter cards broke early on; this is
an apparent widespread trend and the IEC has reportedly responded by
ordering polling stations to cut off a corner of the card.
7. (U) Some limited incidents of the following were also reported:
a lack of privacy in certain polling stations, where voting booths
are in plain sight of the observers, and some of the voting booths
at polling stations had windows behind them. One observer reported
that their group was not allowed entry to one polling center based
in a mosque, and another observer noted that one polling station was
turning away women who did not have a photo identification.
8. (U) Observers noted, on the whole, a very robust presence of
domestic observation teams, including observers from Free and Fair
Elections of Afghanistan (FEFA) and various candidate and polling
agents. Many observers report the presence of foreign press at many
of the polling centers, including media companies from France,
Russia, and Germany, to name a few.
9. (U) TF warrior (Panjshir, Bamyan, Parwan and Kapisa) have
confirmed with the Task Force that all tamper evidence bags for the
voting tally sheets are on hand at each polling site in sufficient
numbers.

10. (U) Herat: USAID and DOS PRT reps in Herat visited nine polling
centers beginning in Herat City and including Koshann, Forgan and
Ingil. There were no significant incidents to report and all
polling sites appeared well-organized. There were no significant
complaints from observers. There was appropriate ANP presence at
all polling centers they visited. PRT observers reported they were
very well received at every polling center. The only problems they
reported were malfunctioning hole punchers at every stop, and
officials were using scissors to mark ID cards. There are very few
travelers on the roads in Herat.

11. (U) Voting and Counting Activities: Paktika in RC East reports
that in Terwa and War Mamay the IEC met requests for additional
balloting material by shifting material within the district and that
calls for additional materials are growing, particularly in Western
Paktika.
-----
Fraud
-----

12. (U) As of 1500 Local the IEC announced they have addressed the
following fraud issues so far:

-Regarding Bashardost's claim of ink wearing off, the IEC is
investigating, but said it is not a serious issue. Note: some of
our observers in Kabul say the ink bottles were not shaken enough.

-On complaints about punch cards not working, the IEC is telling
polling centers to cut the edges of voter registration cards with
scissors instead.

-Regarding IEC receiving calls about a lack of ballots, the IEC said
they were sending extra ballots to locations as needed.

IEC head Dr. Ludin also reported that that a majority of polls were
open, that no significant incidents were reported, that many
incidents were being addressed and that complaints should be
directed to the to ECC. Polls were set to close at 4 p.m.. It was

also reported that Afghans in line would be allowed to vote and this
could take as long as an hour. Luddin added that a polling center
in Sping Boldak district of Kandahar and another polling center in
New Baghlan district of Baghlan province were closed down due to
security problems.
13. (U) Re: Farid Zekria's earlier complaint that the Kandahar
chief of police refused to give vehicle permits to Abdullah's group
of candidate agents (SITREP) the ECC said the reports are not
accurate and the incident did not occur.

14. (U) The IEC now says the first partial presidential election
results will be announced August 25 -- not/not Aug 23 as previously
announced by Dr. Najafi. The IEC reiterated voters in line at 1600
will have their votes honored, but could not extend hours too late,
if at all, because vote counting needs to start as soon as possible
tonight. The IEC press officer told us 6500 of 6521 polls had
opened.

Again, IEC's main message was "polls are open, we're working w/
security forces to deal w/ things, and Afghans should get out and
vote before 1600."

15. (U) Ghazni cites reports that there has been no voting in
Khogyani because election materials never left the District Center,
and the DC has been under attack since early this morning. They
note unconfirmed speculation that officials in Khogyani may have
wanted to stuff the ballot boxes, though they are reported to be
preoccupied with fighting right now. Farah says there have been no
reported irregularities in any of the polling centers; the primary
disruption has been security incidents near the polling centers
where ANSF have engaged alongside CF Taliban units roaming the
countryside.
--------------
Public Affairs
--------------

16. (U) PUBLIC AFFAIRS UPDATES:
MFA spokeman's brief press conference at 11:30 a.m. this morning
reaffirmed the international and national media ban on reporting
security incidents, in effect until 5:00 p.m.. Foreign press
reportedly encountered some issues - according to the Dutch
Ambassador, a photographer was held for half an hour - but in
general were not impeded from their work. Many consider the ban to
be unenforceable.
AFGHAN MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
Other Top Stories:
-Police shoot dead 3 suicide bombers in Paktia, 2 men trying to
locate explosives near polling stations in Gardez arrested by police

-Gen. Zahir Azimi spokesman to the Afghan Ministry of Interior in an
interview with Tolo TV said police on Thursday had shot dead three
would-be suicide bombers near polling stations in southeastern
Paktya provinces while according to Azimi two other men trying to
locate explosives near a polling station in Gardez the capital of
the province were arrested by police.
-Boys under the voting age vote in eastern Laghman province
-Tolo TV reporter in Alingar district of eastern Laghman province
says he had seen boys under the voting age (18) at the polling
stations were holding voting cards. The reporter also says an armed
clash had erupted between police and militants in Ali Shing district
of the province.
-Rockets fired on Lashkar Gah City killing 1 child, injuring some
others
-Tolo TV reporter in Lashkar Gah the capital of southern Helmand
province says six rockets were fired on the city thursday morning
one of which hit a residential house killing a child and injuring a
number of others. According to reporter rockets were also reportedly
fired on Sangin and Garem Sir districts of the province late
Wednesday night.
District police chief shot dead Habibur Rehman Sherzai
-Pahjwok News reported that militants gunned down a district police
chief and wounded three policemen in northern Baghlan province on
Thursday. The report said that Col. Gul Agha, Central Baghlan
district crimes branch chief, confirmed Muhammad Afzal was killed in
a Taliban attack on his residence in Pashayee. Some fighters were
also reportedly killed in a clash touched off by the attack, Agha
said without giving an exact number of militant casualties. Three
policemen suffered injuries in the exchange of fire.
-Pahjwok News reportered that more than 30 polling stations
remained closed in southeastern Paktia province after election staff
refused to turn up for duty due to security concerns. Police chief
Brig. General Aziz Ahmad Wardak also reported that voting was
cancelled in Zurmat and Janikhel districts and provincial capital
Gardez to keep election officials from being harmed.
-Pahjwok News also quoted a resident of Zurmat who said there was no

one at the polling centers after the Taliban distributed letters
that warned people to refrain from voting. The same report quoted a
12 year old girl at Gardez Girls High School who said election
offials did not ask their ages and that she and several other
similar aged girls had voter cards and were prepared to vote.
-Afghans Vote Amid Violence but Turnout Uncertain
The New York Times reported that Afghans were voting despite Taliban
threats. It also reported an unconfirmed incident in the city of
Kandahar in which insurgents staged a roadblock and hanged two
voters who had ink stained fingers.
-Afghan Media Highlights:
Pajhwok News Agency reported that residents of Chak and Jaghato
districts were attacked as Taliban insurgents closed the roads on
polling day in central Maidan Wardak province, local residents said.


BBC reported that Pakistan's border with Afghanistan was closed
Thursday and security forces were on alert as Afghans voted in
national elections under threat of Taliban attacks.

Pajhwok News Agency reported that more than 30 polling stations
stayed closed in Paktia province after election staff refused to
turn up for duty due to security concerns.

Pajhwok News Agency reported that militants fired rockets into a
polling centre in Kunduz province while a bomb blast took place near
the police headquarters in Takhar.

Radio Azadi reported that in several districts of Nangarhar province
women did not vote because of the lack of female workers at the
polling centers at the districts.

Radio Azadi reported that the number of female voters were higher
than the male voters in Kunar province.

Tolo TV reported that Governor of Balkh said that some people
brought bleach to the province to remove the ink from their fingers.
The governor also claimed that some people have several voters'
cards.

Radio Salam Watandar reported that Taliban militants fired three
rockets into the city of Farah province. No reports of casualties
so far.

EIKENBERRY

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