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Troops risk their lives to secure upcoming elections

Video by Regane RANUCCI , Claire BILLET

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-07-21

French troops stationed in Afghanistan have begun inspecting polling stations ahead of presidential and provincial council election on August 20, but they face deadly bombs and traps planted by Taliban rebels every day.

International coalition forces are struggling to ensure safe conditions for the upcoming presidential and provincial council elections on August 20, in which President Hamid Karzai is standing for re-election. The vote comes as the hardline Taliban rebels, who were ousted eight years ago by a US-led invasion, are trying to regain control of the country.

The rising violence has forced the United States to dispatch an extra 22,000 soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan and many hope that these reinforcements will help to stabilise the country ahead of the vote.

French soldiers have begun inspecting polling stations, but their mission has been made harder because Taliban attacks have tripled since last year. FRANCE 24 correspondent Claire Billet followed a French patrol in the Kapisa region, north of Kabul, on its way to one of the two polling stations in the Tag Ab district – a mission which has become very dangerous.

Mine sweeping experts inspect every bridge before the patrol can cross.


“The risk is high, the rebels dig holes and put explosives inside. We must take measures to protect ourselves, and roads are always inspected” explains Captain Thibaut, vice-commander of the Tag Ab base.

Soldiers are familiar with all sorts of explosive devices. Just the day before, a bomb hidden under the road exploded just as one of the French army’s armoured vehicles left the base. Two hours later, the Taliban attacked a halted convoy. No one was wounded but the Taliban have made their message perfectly clear: the soldiers are in a hostile environment.

Battles are breaking out approximately every few days between the insurgents and the 100 French soldiers who have been sent out to inspect the polling stations.

Date created : 2009-07-21