WASHINGTON, Oct. 9, 2004-With more than 10 million Afghans-40 percent of them women-registered to vote in their country's national elections today, the commander of coalition in forces in Afghanistan says it's a demonstration that they want to play an active role in their country's new future.
The coalition, working with NATO, the United Nations and the Afghan National Army, police and security forces, is poised to ensure the Afghan people get that opportunity, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. David Barno said during interviews this week with N-B-C News and the Pentagon Channel.
The voter registration turnout, far higher than expected, "reinforces all we've seen in the Afghan people," Barno told N-B-C. "They believe in their own future and they want to select their own future at the ballot box."
Barno said the Afghans have demonstrated that "they're willing to reject warfare and . the rule of the gun" in favor of "the rule of law" at the ballot box.
In preparation, the general said security forces have been bolstered for the elections, with the Afghan police and security forces and the Afghan National Army providing the primary "inner ring" of security. "This is very much an Afghan-centric security effort," Barno told The Pentagon Channel.
Coalition forces will provide a quick reaction force and will run air and ground patrols "very visibly, to assist where they may be needed," Barno said in that interview.
Barno told N-B-C an additional battalion of more than 700 paratroopers from the 82 nd Airborne Division is on the ground in Afghanistan to provide security support during the elections. They're "doing great," Barno said, and are "up and running in several different places in the country.