Afghanistan. The postponed presidential election, which should have taken place in July, was conducted on September 28. When it was decided in March to postpone the election for another two months, the electoral authority had not even finalized the result of the parliamentary elections in October 2018. The result of the presidential election was not clear at the end of November due to administrative and technical problems. What is clear, however, is that 72,000 police and soldiers were required to ensure the safety of voters. Despite this, about 400 of nearly 5,000 polling stations were forced to stay closed. During the Election Day, the Taliban conducted between 70 and 400 attacks – the information varies in different sources. However, the result is the same – five dead soldiers, at least 40 injured civilians and a turnout of 25%. Since the election campaign began on July 28, at least ten people have been killed, and the threats from the Taliban had caused 18 candidates to step down. In addition, information on widespread electoral fraud was received, prompting one of the candidates, as well as Prime Minister Abdullah Abdullah, to demand that the vote count be stopped in November. The question is therefore whether the election results will be published at all.
Only on December 22, the country’s electoral commission was able to present a preliminary election result that indicated that incumbent President Ashraf Ghani had won with 50.6% of the vote. The nearest rival Adhullah Abdullah received 39.5%.
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The number of deaths in the armed conflict in 2018 was just over 3,800, the highest figure since 2009, when these statistics began to be published, and just over 10% more than the year before. The reason is, among other things, that the Islamic State (IS) carried out more acts of terrorism and that the fight against the Taliban and IS led to increasingly intense air strikes by Afghan and US forces. The 2019 figures don’t look any better; only 1,250 civilians were killed in the first half of the year, and up to 1,200 in the following quarter (July – September).
Despite the violence, 800,000 Afghans returned from neighboring Iran in 2018. According to the United Nations Organization (International Organization for Migration), there was an increase of over 65%. One of the reasons for the increase is that US sanctions are pushing Iran hard. UNHCR reported at the end of 2018 that one million registered Afghan refugees and close to 2 million paperless Afghans were in the neighboring country.
At the end of January, the Taliban agreed with the United States on a framework for a peace agreement. If the Taliban prevent terrorism on Afghan territory and put down their weapons and initiate talks with the Afghan government, the United States promises to call home its soldiers. The United States entered Afghanistan after the attacks in New York on September 11, 2001.
In July, further talks were held between the Afghan government and the Taliban, with Qatar and Germany as mediators. A joint statement stated that the two parties would work for a peace agreement, which was monitored internationally. To get there, they promised, among other things, to stop attacks on hospitals, schools and other community services and that no civilian casualties would be harvested. It was also agreed that “within the framework of Islam” respect women’s rights, both economic and social and political. In November, a smaller prison exchange took place – a symbolic goodwill act for further talks. The Taliban handed over an American and an Australian citizen, both professors from the American University in Kabul, to the US forces, while the Afghan government released three Taliban leaders.
Many killed in terrorist attacks on study center
At least 24 people are killed and dozens injured when a suicide bomber detonates his belt at a school for higher education in western Kabul. According to eyewitnesses, the victims are students on their way to the study center. The Sunni extremist group Islamic State (IS) takes on the act, but the police later arrest a man who they say is the mastermind behind the attack and who is connected to the terrorist network Haqqani, with ties to the Taliban.
Violence is escalating
The US envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, criticizes the Taliban movement for the high level of violence in the country. This includes an offensive in Helmand province. The Taliban accuse the United States of violating the peace agreement by using flights against Taliban forces there. The envoy says that the flight was used to protect Afghan forces, which is allowed under the agreement. The Afghan government side accuses the Taliban of detonating a car bomb near a police station in the western province of Ghor. The attack killed 16 people, including women and children, and injured more than 50. The Taliban deny the act.
According to CountryAAH, the population of Afghanistan in 2019 was 38,041,643, ranking number 37 in the world. The population growth rate was 2.340% yearly, and the population density was 58.2694 people per km2.