My Last Tour: Election Threats

Photo courtesy of the Department of Defense
Photo courtesy of the Department of Defense
TAMPA (2009-08-17) -

The Afghanistan election is only days away. And tension is growing for the people and the troops according to Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Rex Temple. The Tampa airman is checking in with WUSF during his year-long deployment.

Candidates aren't the only ones working to get a message out prior to the election in Afghanistan. Temple says the Taliban is busy spreading threats.

"The people I've talked with, they've mentioned there's a lot of postings at the mosque they attend and it's warning them to stay away from the polling stations," Temple says.

Ultimately, it's going to be up to the people whether or not they vote, but the Taliban is putting on the pressure.

"They're printing things in the newspaper vowing to disrupt the polling sites, to attack all the military camps," Temple says. "In the past week, they have stepped up their attacks.

Anyone who votes will dip their finger into indelible ink which could help the Taliban target them. By looking at people's hands, the Taliban will be able to see if someone has voted and if so, they've threatened to chop off their finger.

The Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police, the US military and coalition forces will guard the polling stations and roads for the election. Temple cannot talk about his specific assignment, but has a sense of the election's importance.

"This is truly going to be a litmus test with cooperation with the ANA, the ANP and the coalition forces and whether or not we can provide enough security to make people feel safe enough to come out to the polling sites and vote," Temple says.

The already dangerous situation got even worse earlier this month. Temple learned about the break-up of a Taliban training camp across the border in Pakistan. About 200 boys as young as 8 were being trained there as suicide bombers.

"I have a soft spot for children," Temple says. "But now, it makes me wonder from a security standpoint when these children are coming up to our vehicles coming up to us asking for pens or candy is it possible that now they pose a security risk to us? And what is going to happen during elections? Most of the time children are ignored, but now in the back of my mind I have to question does this pose a danger to me and my teammates?"

It's a question Temple can't easily resolve for himself. But like most people in Afghanistan this week, he'll be on heightened awareness as the elections approach.

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