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Afghan security chiefs vow free, fair elections in 2018

AFGHAN SECURITY CHIEFS VOW FREE, FAIR ELECTIONS IN 2018

The Afghan army chief, interior minister, and other key security officials on Sunday vowed foolproof measures to ensure the safety of next year's long-awaited parliamentary and district council elections.

The pledge comes as the country's Independent Election Commission (IEC) signed deals with state security organs towards the same end in the conflict-riddled country, where elections have long been chaotic and even deadly. Two weeks ago, the commission set a July 7, 2018 date for polls, a move immediately welcomed by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

Najibullah Ahmadzai, who heads the commission, said that without the support of state security organs, holding elections would be literally impossible.

"So in this regard we have very close collaboration with the security forces," he said.

The Afghan army chief, Lt. Gen. Mohammad Sharif Yaftali, assured the commission the security and defense forces would do everything they can to ensure safe and fair elections. Interior Minister Taj Mohammad Jahed vowed that no one would be allowed to undermine or interfere in the polls.

According to commission estimates, the elections will cost around $200 million. Parliament's five-year term ended in June 2015, but fresh polls were delayed amid debate over reforming the voting system, among other issues.

The UN mission has urged the election commission, Afghan political leaders, and civil society to join forces to ensure credible parliamentary and district council elections in 2018.

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