The Taliban militant group has vowed to target Afghan security forces in the upcoming parliamentary elections in the violence-wracked country.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement on Monday that the militants would pull no punches to disrupt the long-delayed vote scheduled for October 20.
“People who are trying to help in holding this process successfully by providing security should be targeted and no stone should be left unturned for the prevention and failure” of the election, Mujahid said.
Elsewhere in the statement, Mujahid described the polls as a “malicious American conspiracy” against Afghanistan.
The Taliban have ordered its militants to attack authorities who are helping organize this month’s parliamentary elections in Afghanistan. They have also called on candidates and voters to boycott the polls.
The warning coincides with an increase in the number of militant attacks in the country ahead of the polls.
A bomb attack on October 2 hit an election campaign rally in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least 13 people and wounding many more.
Back in April, nearly 60 people were killed and 120 others wounded in a bomb attack at the doorway of an identity card distribution and voter registration center in Kabul’s Dasht-e-Barchi area, a neighborhood where many of the Hazara Shia Muslims live and have frequently been targeted by bombers. The Daesh terrorist group claimed responsibility for the bombing.
The polls were originally set to be held in 2015 following presidential elections the previous year but were repeatedly pushed back due to security fears and logistical problems.
Candidates will contest the 249 seats in the National Assembly for five-year terms. Regional elections will also be held in districts across Afghanistan.
Separately, the US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, met with Afghan leaders for the first time since his appointment last month to steer efforts with the Taliban.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office said in a statement that Khalilzad met with the president and other top leaders on Sunday night to discuss “an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.”
Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah welcomed the visit by Afghanistan-born Khalilzad in televised remarks on Monday. “We believe if more attention is paid to the (peace) process, there is a good chance of success.”
Khalilzad, a former US ambassador to Kabul, Baghdad and the United Nations, is on a 10-day regional trip. The visit comes as the administration of US President Donald Trump has been ratcheting up efforts to hold talks with the Taliban.
The US has also asked Pakistan to facilitate talks with the Taliban.
Zahid Hussain, a Pakistani defense analyst and author of two books on militancy in the region, earlier said the appointment of Khalilzad as a special adviser in Afghanistan could complicate his job. “He has been very critical of Pakistan in the past and his appointment will not help move things forward.”
Afghan people still face insecurity 17 years after the United States and its allies invaded the country as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror.
Although the Taliban militant group was removed from power as a result of the invasion, the country remains occupied and many areas are still threatened by insecurity.
The Taliban have repeatedly declared that they will not enter talks until US-led foreign troops leave the country