The Taliban has warned Afghans not to participate in the upcoming presidential election and has ordered its fighters to disrupt the vote.
In an emailed statement sent to the media on Monday, the Taliban warned Afghans they should "reject completely" the April 5 election to select a successor to President Hamid Karzai. The statement said Afghans should not put themselves in danger by going to the polls.
The Taliban said it has urged clerics across the country to spread the word that the election is an "American conspiracy."
The statement is the Taliban\’s first formal threat of violence against the presidential vote.
The Afghan government did not immediately respond to the Taliban threat.
The presidential vote will be a crucial test of whether Afghanistan can ensure a stable political transition as NATO combat forces ready their withdrawal after nearly 13 years of war.
Karzai had been expected to sign a bilateral security agreement late last year, which would allow about 10,000 U.S. troops to be deployed in the country after NATO withdraws by December. However, the Afghan president refused to sign the deal, and has said his successor might now complete negotiations. The delay in signing the deal has strained relations between the U.S. and Afghanistan.
Billions of dollars have been spent on military operations and development in Afghanistan, but the country remains wracked by poverty and violence with weak government structures and a fragile economy dependent on aid money.
Source: VOA and agencies