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US steps up security ops ahead of poll -

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US steps up security ops ahead of poll

Kim Landers reported this story on Thursday, August 13, 2009 12:26:00

ELEANOR HALL: In Afghanistan another Taliban attack on a government base in the country's north is
fuelling fear ahead of next week's election.

But the United States' special envoy to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke says the presidential poll is
vital in building the Government's legitimacy.

Our North America correspondent Kim Landers filed this report.

(Sound of explosion)

KIM LANDERS: US forces have launched an assault on a Taliban held town in southern Afghanistan.

(Sound of jet)

With Harrier jets flying overhead, there's been heavy fighting.

(Sound of gunfire)

Operation Eastern Resolve 2 is a mission to root out Taliban fighters from a long time base and
boost security for next week's Afghanistan presidential election.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: But I would say this about defining success in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the
simplest sense the Supreme Court test for another issue, we'll know it when we see it.

KIM LANDERS: Richard Holbrooke is the US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. He says the
military operation in Afghanistan is not open ended but that civilian assistance is going to
continue for a "long time".

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: And we're not here today to tell you we're winning or we're losing. We're not
here today to say we're optimistic or pessimistic. We're here to tell you that we're in this fight
in a different way, with a determination to succeed.

KIM LANDERS: Richard Holbrooke is cautioning that the result of Afghanistan's closely watched
presidential election next week may not be immediately clear.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: We aren't going to know on the evening of August 20th who won. CNN is not going
to call this election.

All 41 candidates may call it but the process will take a while, the ballots have to be brought
into Kabul, they have to be counted. There are hundreds and hundreds of observers out there.

KIM LANDERS: And he says there'll undoubtedly be challenges to the election result.

Richard Holbrooke's senior advisor Rina Amiri says the Afghanistan election will be record setting.

RINA AMIRI: I think this is the most candidates that have competed for an election anywhere in the
world. I think Afghanistan is going into the Guinness Book of World Records.

There's 41 candidates contesting the elections including two women. The provincial council
elections are being contested by 3,324 people for 420 seats. And 17 million people have registered
to vote.

KIM LANDERS: With that level of interest she says turnout will undoubtedly be high.

RINA AMIRI: And I've seen Afghans turn out over and again despite security concerns, despite
shortcomings in the environment because they believe that these processes matter and because they
believe that if we get this right that Afghanistan is going to move one step away from political
violence and a step further towards political stabilisation.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Nobody is looking for a level of perfection in an election that to which we
ourselves don't always achieve.

KIM LANDERS: Richard Holbrooke says the largest barrier to reaching a stable Government in
Afghanistan is going to be training and maintaining a strong Afghan security force when the US
military eventually reduces its troop numbers.

This is Kim Landers in Washington for The World Today.