In Taliban Strongholds, Voter Turnout Low

Election day began here with Taliban gunfire and a rocket propelled grenade that sent the Marines from Echo Company scrambling for cover, reports CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan.

Moments later they were headed for a nearby village in pursuit.

"We have two guys that we talk to every day so we're going talk to them and see if we can find the two bad guys and kill them," said Sgt. Anthony Matthews with the Echo Company.

Soon after word comes that the suspects are gone. The Marines return to their original mission for the day - encouraging locals to vote in the election.

One after another the villagers come up with reasons they never made it to the polls. One man says the 12-mile road to the polling station is mined by the Taliban. Another man said the Taliban told everyone here they will chop off their fingers. That's exactly what a Taliban commander told CBS News in an exclusive interview.

The commander told CBS News that a finger would be cut off anyone who voted in the "infidel election."

The Taliban was hoping to scare enough people away to destroy faith in the election result. Voter turnout in southern Helmand province, they predicted, would fall to 10 percent from 68 percent in the last election.

CBS News' Lara Logan's coverage of Afghanistan:
Marines in Taliban's Backyard for Election
Marines Walk Tightrope of Death
Mission Critical for U.S. Troops
What the Afghans Really Want
With the Marines in Helmand Province


They couldn't scare everyone in Helmand. Some people in the village of Dahaneh did get to cast their ballots, just days after Marines wrestled control of the town from Taliban fighters.

Further south, where Echo Company operates, it was a different story. , voting has just ended and the Marines have not found a single person in their part of Helmand who voted in the election.

They did find curious young boys in the villages, who played along as the Marines tried to pass on a few very American customs.

But there was a sense by the end of the day here that a milestone in Afghan history had passed these people by, leaving this troubled part of the country more alienated from their government than ever.
  • Lara Logan

    Lara Logan's bold, award-winning reporting from war zones has earned her a prominent spot among the world's best foreign correspondents. Logan began contributing to 60 Minutes in 2005.

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