U.S. President Barack Obama has praised the Afghan people for taking part in their country's presidential and provincial elections, despite the threat of violence by the Taliban.
Mr. Obama spoke Friday at the White House before leaving for the Camp David presidential retreat outside Washington. He called the vote an "important step forward" for the Afghan people as they seek to control their future.
The U.S. leader said millions of people took part in the election and exercised the right to elect their leaders and determine their own destiny. But he said that once again, extremists in Afghanistan showed they are willing to hurt innocent people.
The president reiterated that the U.S. did not support any candidate, but only wants the results to fairly and accurately reflect the will of the people. He said the United States will continue to work with its Afghan partners to strengthen security and governance, defeat al-Qaida, and bring U.S. troops home.
Mr. Obama's revamped war strategy in Afghanistan is designed to defeat a bloody Taliban insurgency and stabilize the country. Mr. Obama has deployed thousands of additional U.S. soldiers and trainers, and boosted diplomacy and development efforts.