Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry has reported that 14 Taliban militants were killed, along with six captured, in operations conducted in coordination with the Afghan national police, Afghan national army, and the Afghan intelligence across the country in provinces of Paktika, Logar, Kandahar, and Ghazni. In addition, five improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were discovered and confiscated along with multiple other weapons and explosives.
This news comes just days after the democratic election in Afghanistan where voters turned out in massive numbers, despite threats of Taliban attacks, to cast their votes. Some waited in lines for hours, in the rain, outside of mosques and schools which were holding the elections.
It is reported that Afghanistan officials would not open 956 of the 7,168 polling stations because of the inability for police to secure the area, and for fear of voters being killed by Taliban militants. Though the results of the election are not compiled yet, it is regarded that current president, Karzi, will be stepping out of office. Karzai won the controversial Afghan election in 2009, which showed low voter turnout, and alleged ballot-stuffing.
The US presence is declining in the region. Though, according to CNN, there are still more than 33,000 troops in Afghanistan, President Obama has asked Pentagon officials to be sure they have an adequate strategy for a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan after 2014.
A security agreement was suggested to leave limited forces in the country to perform counterterrorism missions and train Afghan forces, but was rejected by President Karzi. Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has said that, if elected, he would sign an agreement to leave international forces and aid in the area after 2014.
A complete US withdrawal from the area would end a 13 year occupation in the country, any many do not believe that Afghanistan’s democracy could hold up to the possibility of civil war without US support in the region.
Over the weekend, while elections were taking place in Afghanistan, northwestern Pakistan was swarmed with suspected Taliban, kidnapping about 100 men from pro-government villages bordering Afghanistan. Forty of the kidnapped victims were later released and the Pakistani government remains in negotiations for the release of the remaining kidnapped villagers.
Pakistan’s government, though currently in stalled peace talks with Taliban in the northwestern region, remain positioned to take significant military action should the need arise. Officials are skeptical of what could happen to the entire region should the US evacuate.
Pakistani officials fear that security forces in Afghanistan would be limited by as much as 30 percent if a complete withdrawal were to take place leaving a crippled military unable to fend for itself. Pakistan, which is already laden with 2.5 million Afghan refugees, could be flooded with, as many as 2 million more refugees if the region was to descend into further instability.
March was the first zero-fatality month since Jan. 2007 for the US in Afghanistan, according to Pentagon officials. In total, 2,309 US military casualties have taken place since conflict began in Oct. 2001, according to CNN. The toll on US forces has been diminishing as less amounts of troops are being deployed in the area, and the combat role of those troops decreases. An exact number of Taliban militants killed in Afghanistan could not be found.
By Cody Long