U.S. President Barack Obama says Afghanistan's elections appear to have been successful, despite attempts by the Taliban to disrupt them with violence. He made the comment in a U.S. radio interview Thursday.
Mr. Obama also promised the U.S. military will keep up the pressure on insurgents in Afghanistan to drive them out of their safe havens. With Thursday's voting completed, Afghani officials are calling the election a success. But scattered violence killed at least 26 people across the country, it is not clear how many people voted, and there are reports of voting irregularities.
The victims include nine civilians, nine police officers and eight Afghan soldiers. Attacks were reported in Kabul, Kandahar and other major cities. Election workers are now counting the votes, a process that could take several days before initial results are known.
In Kabul and in northern Afghanistan, voting was steady in some polling centers throughout the day. In the south and east, where fears of Taliban attacks were strongest, there were reports of very low participation. A low voter turnout could damage the election's credibility and undermine support for the winner. Deputy chief electoral officer Zekria Barakzai says officials will investigate all claims of fraud that have been made. Presidential candidates have accused one another of stuffing ballot boxes, printing fake voter cards and tampering with the indelible ink that marks voters fingers to prevent them casting multiple ballots.
Incumbent President Hamid Karzai is the frontrunner in a field of more than 30 presidential candidates, although his once-comfortable lead shrank as election day neared. Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah is considered his closest challenger. Other leading candidates are former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani and Ramazan Bashardost, a popular lawmaker from Kabul. Candidates must get more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off. Voters Thursday also cast ballots for advisory provincial councils.
Security was tight, involving hundreds of thousands of Afghan soldiers and police.