Security forces 'fully prepared' to protect elections against Taliban threats
KABUL -- Security forces are "fully prepared" to protect Afghans against Taliban threats and will not allow anyone to disrupt polls, said the Afghan government Tuesday (August 6).
"Participation in elections and choosing a leader through direct voting are the religious and legal right of the Afghan people," the office of President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement.
"The Afghan government has made all preparations to hold a free, fair and transparent election," the statement said.
The statement came hours after the Taliban warned Afghans to keep away from election rallies and ordered its members to "stand against" the planned September vote.
The presidential election is scheduled for September 28.
The Taliban and other insurgent groups conducted frequent attacks during previous elections, and this year's campaign season has already been rocked by deadly violence.
Last month, on the first day of the campaign season, suicide bombers and gunmen stormed the Kabul office of Amrullah Saleh, Ghani's running mate, killing at least 20 people.
'War crime' threats
The Taliban threats demonstrate a "chilling disregard" for human life, said Zaman Sultani, a South Asia researcher at Amnesty International.
"At a time when the Taliban claims to be pursuing peace, it is threatening to carry out war crimes by attacking civilians at election rallies," Sultani said.
The United States and the Taliban are meeting in Doha for an eighth round of talks aimed at striking a peace deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
Both sides have cited "excellent progress".
"We are discussing the final remaining points," Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told AFP Tuesday.
"With that, the peace agreement will be completed, and then we will decide on the announcement of the date of the agreement," he said.
More than 1,500 civilians were killed or wounded in the Afghan conflict in July alone, the highest monthly toll so far this year and the worst single month since May 2017, according to the United Nations.