KABUL (SW) – The NATO Senior Civilian Representative to Afghanistan, Ambassador Nicholas Kay, has expressed serious concerns over the snail-paced and complicated measures in place for the forthcoming presidential elections.
In an exclusive interview with Salam Watandar, Ambassador Kay said he has heard many concerns, and he shares these concerns in regard to the polls scheduled for September.
“Preparations for the presidential elections are seriously behind schedule, and are also seriously complicated by the wish to use biometric voter registration technology. We saw the impact of introducing some biometric verification technology in a very short time before the parliamentary elections, and quite frankly contributed to some of the chaos in those elections”, he said.
“We are deeply concerned that there seems to be an intention now to rather learn lessons from the parliamentary elections possibly repeat the same mistakes again”, he added.
Ambassador Kay maintained the NATO’s main responsibility in regard to the polls remains training, assisting and advising Afghan security forces for the elections. However, he stressed the voter registration exercise would engage plenty of security forces amid intense fighting season, which is a matter of concern.
Fragile peace process
Responding questions about the peace process, the NATO SCR said there are a lot of challenges and obstacles to overcome to reach peace in Afghanistan.
“However, I do firmly believe at the moment, Afghans have the best chance for peace since 2001, and I do believe that is because both parties to the conflict, or all parties, have come to the realization that winning on the battlefield is not going to happen”, he said.
Ambassador Kay said Afghanistan’s neighbors have also realized their interest is best served in stronger and stable Afghanistan to emerge.
“There is a fundamental problem, which is the Taliban refusing to engage with the government of Afghanistan”, he said. The NATO SCR said there is a strong consensus developing that there needs to be an inclusive and strong role for government, but not an exclusive one. “The Taliban cannot pick and choose who they want to talk to”, he said.
He added efforts are underway to revive chances for conversation in a relatively smaller groups to ultimately reduce violence. “No Afghans want to see the level of violence continue during Ramadan and Eid”, he said.
Taliban exploiting political divisions
The NATO SCR stressed petty politics and differences should not be mixed to hamper the peace process. He added such divisions are only exploited by the Taliban.
He hailed the management and security measures for the recently held ‘Loya Jirga’ (grand consultative session) for peace.
“The voice of Afghans is very clear, they want peace, ceasefire, political settlement, and they want the Taliban to engage with the government for peace talks”, he said.
Ambassador Kay underlined the democratic values, human rights and gains of the past many years need to be preserved.
He cautioned even after a settlement with the Taliban, Afghanistan is likely to have multiple security challenges. “There is absolutely very real possibility that those Taliban who do not want to reconcile might decide to join the ISIS … there are other drivers of conflicts, local disputes which might be local disputes, disputes on resources and narcotics industry criminality, it is realistic even after a settlement with the Taliban Afghanistan would have security challenges.