KABUL, Sept 21: The Taliban rejected Afghanistan’s elections as a ‘US drama’ and vowed on Wednesday to intensify their war, calling into question President Hamid Karzai’s contention that the need for military force had diminished.

UN vote organisers say that about half the 12 million registered Afghans voted in Sunday’s national assembly and provincial polls hailed by Kabul’s allies as a step forward for democracy.

Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi said only four million had voted, less than 15 per cent of a population he put at 30 million.

“The Taliban are thankful to the Afghan people for rejecting the US drama,” he said, adding that the parliament would not represent Afghans and would be subordinate to the United States.

The Taliban had vowed to derail the polls but failed despite a wave of violence in the months leading up to the vote in which more than 1,000 people died, most of them insurgents.

The Taliban launched dozens of harassing attacks last weekend in which 14 people died, but poll organisers said voting took place at all but a handful of 6,200 polling centres.

Hakimi’s comments came after Karzai declared on Tuesday that a democratic Afghanistan was no longer a source of terrorism and he did not think there was a big need for military action.

Karzai argued that the focus should now be on tackling militants in their bases, where they get their training, and on shutting off resources and funding.

While his comments appeared to put him at odds with the Americans, Sunday’s parliamentary and provincial elections have been hailed as a milestone in Afghanistan’s progress since the late 2001 overthrow of the Taliban regime, who virtually banned women from public life.

“We project out of total number of votes cast, 41 per cent are by females and 59 per cent by males,” said Sultan Baheen, spokesman of the UN-backed Joint Electoral Management Body.

Women have been guaranteed a quarter of all seats in the lower house of parliament and 30 per cent of those in the provincial councils.

AIR STRIKE QUESTIONED: But in comments that appeared aimed at wooing support in the Taliban’s and his own ethnic Pashtun heartland, he questioned the use of US air strikes and invasive searches by US forces.

Civilian deaths in US strikes and what have been perceived as heavy-handed searches have long angered people in the conservative south where the Taliban draw most support.

Karzai has been trying without much success to coax Taliban fighters to defect and he will also have been looking ahead to building support in what is likely to be a disparate parliament.—Agecies

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