Smooth Afghanistan poll raises questions about Taliban strength

KABUL (TIP): A bigger-than-expected turnout in Afghanistan’s presidential election and the Taliban’s failure to derail the vote have raised questions about the capacity of the insurgents to tip the country back into chaos as foreign troops head home.

The Taliban claimed that they staged more than 1,000 attacks and killed dozens during Saturday’s election, which they have branded a US-backed deception of the Afghan people, though security officials said it was a gross exaggeration. There were dozens of minor roadside bombs, and attacks on polling stations, police and voters during the day. But the overall level of violence was much lower than the Taliban had threatened to unleash on the country.

And, despite the dangers they faced at polling stations, nearly 60 percent of the 12 million people eligible to vote turned out, a measure of the determination for a say in their country’s first-ever democratic transfer of power, as President Hamid Karzai prepares to stand down after 12 years in power.

“This is how people vote to say death to the Taliban,” said one Afghan on Twitter, posting a photograph that showed his friends holding up one finger – stained with ink to show they had voted – in a gesture of defiance. There was a palpable sense in Kabul on Sunday that perhaps greater stability is within reach after 13 years of strife since the fall of the Taliban’s hardline Islamist regime in late 2001.

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