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U.S. Envoy: Taliban Can't Stop Afghan Elections

(AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq)
U.S. president Barack Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan proclaimed Monday that the Taliban has failed in its attempt to derail this Thursday's crucial presidential election, which is widely seen as an essential step to lay the basis for a U.S.-supported democratic framework in the central Asian country.

Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who is currently in Pakistan to discuss a host of issues including security affairs related to blocking the advance of the Taliban in the Pak-Afghan region, said the Taliban appeared to be "throwing everything they have into this current effort to disrupt the elections" though without success.

Speaking to a small group of journalists, Holbrooke said a recent escalation in casualties across Afghanistan was part of a "ferocious offensive by the Taliban, designed to kill the elections. Their goal is to prevent the elections and they have failed in that."

In recent months, the number of casualties among Western forces, including U.S. troops, has risen in Afghanistan as the Taliban have stepped up their attacks. In parts of Afghanistan, ordinary people reported numerous cases where the Taliban threatened to kill them and destroy neighborhoods if they would cast their votes in the elections.

Some analysts fear the elections will be followed by a period of violence, especially if the results are rejected by some of the candidates. Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan since a U.S.-backed military campaign ousted the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks, has been the front-runner in recent opinion polls.

But it is unclear if he would successfully poll the required minimum 50 percent of the votes. His failure to do so will force a run-off in about six weeks between him and the candidate with the second highest number of votes.

"I am not going to predict what comes after the election. Our goal is to support and encourage a free and fair election whose outcome reflects the views and desires of the Afghan people," Holbrooke said when asked to predict the circumstances after the elections.

Western diplomats based in Islamabad who spoke to CBS News warned it was crucial for the U.S. to ensure a transition to a new government that is as free of turmoil as possible in a country where arms are widespread.

"Nobody believes this election can be held without any bloodshed. Afghanistan is not Europe or America," said one Western ambassador in Islamabad who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity.

"There are efforts going on by NATO and the U.S. to pass on the message to everyone that excessive bloodshed and infighting will not suit anyone. At the very least if the competing candidates do not fight, then hopefully we can have as much unity as possible against the Taliban," concluded the ambassador.