Amid violence and Taliban peace talks, Afghan campaign begins

Amid all violence, Afghan peace talks are also underway which has also posed questions whether Afghanistan should hold a key poll just as the US and Taliban are negotiating.

Afghanistan election campaign kicks off

Afghanistan's presidential election, the fourth since the Taliban were ousted in a US-led invasion in 2001, is off to a rocky start.

The election campaign which officially kicked off from Monday marred with violence with an attack targeted the Kabul office of President Ashraf Ghani's running mate, Amrullah Saleh.

 

(Photograph:Reuters)

Kabul Sunday attack

At least 20 people were killed and 50 others were injured after a huge blast struck Kabul city on Sunday.

The violence came on the first day of campaigning for the upcoming presidential elections, serving as a grim reminder of Afghanistan's woeful security situation and the sort of mayhem and murder that have beset previous polls.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Amrullah Saleh: Critic of Taliban

Amrullah Saleh, who escaped without serious injury, is the former head of Afghan intelligence and an outspoken critic of the Taliban and Pakistan -- a country he blames for backing the insurgents.

The blast struck near the office of Green Trend, a youth and reform-focused civil society organisation Saleh heads.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Major election challenges

Ahead of the presidential elections, Afghanistan faces a host of major issues including rocketing crime, a lacklustre economy, soaring unemployment, and crumbling infrastructure.

Apart from this, many voters also worry about a repeat of violent attacks on previous polling stations by the Taliban and other insurgent groups trying to undermine Afghanistan's fragile democracy.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Despondent voters

Sayed Jan, a 27-year-old student and voter, said he won't be voting as he has lost faith since the 2014 election that was mired in allegations of fraud and ballot stuffing.

"We have been betrayed by the candidates in the past. We cannot trust them this time," he said.

"We need peace in Afghanistan instead of elections. Even if I vote, the election will be fraudulent."

(Photograph:Reuters)

Security beefs up

On Monday, security has also been beefed up with forces fanning out across Kabul as leading candidates held rallies.

According to a report, Afghan security agencies spent eight months on an election security plan that includes armored vehicles and guards for candidates’ rallies and homes.

With Sunday's attack it is expected that security may heightened further.

(Photograph:Reuters)

US-Taliban peace talks

Amid all violence, Afghan peace talks are also underway which has also posed questions whether Afghanistan should hold a key poll just as the US and Taliban are negotiating.

Despite Ghani's claim that a summit between his government and the Taliban would take place shortly, the insurgents said they would only talk to Kabul after the US had announced a timeline for a withdrawal of foreign forces -- a major part of any deal.

(Photograph:Reuters)