AfPak Channel experts have sent in the following dispatches from their posts in Afghanistan, and we are updating as they come in. Some of these notes were taken from Twitter and compiled here. You can also follow the AfPak Channel on Twitter for updates. All times are EST.
11:02am Alex Strick van Linschoten sent in this video of vote-counting in Kandahar.
10:26am Alex Strick van Linschoten sent in this video of today’s polling in Kandahar.
10:12am Austin Long: Gilles, I think Karzai does have the support of the usual suspects in the south (e.g. the Popalzai) but not the broader public. I also think you hit the nail on the head on turn-out: it’s probably low only in part because of security concerns but mostly due to apathy and cynicism.
10:11am Gilles Dorronsoro, Mazar-i Sharif: I have two remarks/questions. One, is it so clear that Karzai has his core support in the south, considering the support of Dostum and Khalili? Two, the low turn-out is a victory for the Taliban, but in Mazar where the security is perfect there seems to be a low turn-out. So some people are not afraid of the Taliban, just cynical?
9:46am Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: Karzai has observers at every station… 6,000 observers for Kandahar alone!
9:08am Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: Kandahar police chief stated that (as far as he knew) two children and one adult died and two people were injured today in the province during elections…
9:05am Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: Rumors in Kandahar of Taliban hanging two people for voting but can’t confirm it and think it’s just gossip and rumors…
8:58am Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: All vote-counting stopped by force in Spin Boldak by Commander Razziq…unsure what’s going on…will try to update when I hear more…
8:41am Brian Katulis, Kabul: The polling centers I saw were a mix, got into a women’s center (centers are gender segregated) and there were long lines; the mood was festive.
8:35am Brian Katulis, Kabul: Checkpoints and restrictions on traffic made Kabul like a ghost town.
8:31am Brian Katulis, Kabul: I’m out at a live TV shot in Kabul and the streets which were empty for most of today are coming back to life.
8:22am Norine MacDonald, Kabul: I am just back from a day touring the polling stations. They are keeping some open if there are people still in line. Kandahar has said they will stay open til 5pm local time.
Just now two muschak/rockets landed by the Election Commission office in Kandahar apparently.
I asked each polling station I visited (some large and some small):
-Was the turn out what they were expecting — all said no, they were overstaffed.
-What was the number of women compared to men — it was about 25 to 35 percent of the male turnout. I was told again by our staff in the south that voter turnout was low and female turn out very low.
The business about the ink was a small drama today. I went to Bashardost’s tent/office and they had the type of bleach they removed the ink. I think perhaps there were some batches of ink that were bad and some not — nevertheless you had to have an uncut/unpunched voters’ card to go with a clean finger so I just don’t see how it can result in a big movement in the vote count. But surely that is bad management to have bad ink after all the fuss UN made about the ink…more an embarrassment than something substantive I think.
Lots of confusion when I asked them how the count would work. It often took a lot of conversation on their end to decide what the answer was. In the end I would say they are indeed being counted by the polling station staff with perhaps someone from head office Elections Commission overlooking. Karzai had observers at each station but not the other campaigns.
There were police at each polling station. The city is otherwise shut down and the road very quiet and efficient roadblocks/searches underway.
There was no clear answer to how the results got to the Elections Commission or whether they would be posted at each polling station.
I went to the polling station by the big refugee camp on the West side of the city and the refugees were not arriving at the voting station.
I saw two European Union Election Observers at one station at the end of the day who were going to watch the counting. They had not heard about the ink issue so it seemed there was not communication between the observer teams about checking this issue. Otherwise I did not see any foreigners at the polls.
I must say the folks running the polling station were very welcoming and proud of their work, and working very diligently. They were more than pleased to explain and talk about their work, their backgrounds etc. Heartwarming to see really.
7:37am Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: Vote counting starts in Kandahar city…
7:35am Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: One dead and three injured in latest attack on Kandahar, one source states.
7:32am Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: Rocket just hit Kandahar city.
6:38am Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: Kandahar city’s biggest voting station has only had around 1800 so far today.
6:30am Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: Half an hour to go till end of elections. Really low turnout all round…
5:01am Gilles Dorronsoro, Mazar-i Sharif: Baghlan-i jadid’s uluswali under attack but not taken by the Taliban. Mazar is quiet, but few people in the streets or voting. The (real) turn-out could be a real victory for the Taliban.
4:39am: Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: "Now the campaign starts," say Kandaharis as they start scrubbing ‘indelible’ ink from their fingers.
4:35am Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: Razziq reportedly took all voting boxes into his house in Boldak. Observers protesting in street outside.
3:40am Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: Explosion just now in Kandahar City (sounded like an IED).
3:31am Norine MacDonald, Kabul: Just talked to my staff in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province. Multiple rockets in town over night and this morning, causing two deaths and injury.
Reports of disarray at the polling stations, and allegations of fraud causing scuffles.
Only Shia (Hazara) women voting, no Pashtun women at the voting stations.
Police struggling with the situation (Lash is a small town). "Rumors" of Taliban gathering across the bridge on the west side of town are making people nervous.
I am trying to get more information on this as it could mean a bit of a dustup in Lash today.
There is a British PRT in that town so lets see what they do. So far my staff has not seen any sign of them yet — they may be out of town at rural voting stations.
Reports of fighting in Panjwai District of Kandahar and fighting closing the road Kandahar to Lashkar Gah (again).
Apparently Kai Eide visited a polling station in Kabul where BBC is set up only 4 voters there. That was too bad…
3:09am Norine MacDonald, Kabul: Taliban are causing closing of voting centre in Paktiya and Logar.
Bashardost went to vote with some reporters and was able to wipe the ink off his finger when it was still fresh. Mine is still on my finger but we are going to try the Clorox test.
But they also cut the corner off the voting card so you could only vote twice if you had more than one voting card… Still it is causing a bit stir. You really need a lot of people properly trained and with double voting cards to pull of any level of fraud that would affect the voting results in any significant way. Bashardost wants election process stopped apparently.
It’s a bit of a tempest in a teapot I think…but surely annoying when they searched and paid for indelible ink.
2:49am Norine MacDonald, Kabul: Habibi is by Parliament Road, where Karzai was to vote this morning. Will check it out.
The Tolo TV transmitters were down (who did that?).
Reports that New Baghlan district of Baghlan province has fallen to the Taliban. This is about four hours north of Kabul, south of Kunduz, I think German NATO territory.
2:44am Erica Gaston, Pakistan: I am not in Kabul to verify (in Pakistan) but I have heard reports of four attacks on polling centers in Kabul, including Habibi high school, Naswani high school and AJQ mosque.
2:28am Norine MacDonald, Kabul: I just was in a big voting station in Five Hundred Families neighbourhood.
Actually very exciting to see it. Well managed and proud Afghans.
I have my finger inked and some photos I will try and send in.
A lot of excited and happy women voting on the women’s side also very orderly and well managed by elections commission female staff. They said they were proud to be voting.
I did not see any other foreigners doing observation.
There was one incident with the police with three young men removing the ink from their fingers with Clorox bleach. It seemed to work. There was a scuffle and they arrested them.
There are some candidates with buses around the city giving rides to the polls.
As I write this I hear a report of Taliban and police fighting in eastern Kabul so I’m going to check that out.
1:45am Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: Karzai campaigners handing out badges and Karzai baseball caps at polling stations in Kandahar…
1:41am Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: Kandahar voting happening, but not many people out on streets (especially compared to last elections). Women’s voting stations are almost empty, apart from some non-Pashtuns. There were rocket attacks early this morning around 6am, and one person was killed while exercising on a hill where the rocket struck.
1:23am Norine MacDonald, Kabul: I am out and about in Kabul checking voting stations. Only small reports of gunfire in Khalifatullah so far. Apparently some rockets and bombs in Kunduz and Kandahar. Some line ups at orderly polls. Have not seen one woman voting yet.
12:42am Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: Only 25% of the number of voters compared to last election say local Kandaharis.
12:40am Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: "For $1,000 I have to get 1,000 votes." Conversation overheard in Kandahar.
11:45pm Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: Walking around town to election stations. "At least it’s good exercise," said one.
11:40pm Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: Couple of dozen girls voting at one female station. Most non-Pashtuns though.
11:37pm Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: Two explosions heard in Kandahar city.
11:35pm Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: Lots of people voting at Zahir Shahi High school in Kandahar city.
11:32pm Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: No girls voting at one of the big female stations in Kandahar city.
10:35pm Alex Strick van Linschoten, Kandahar: Lots more officials than voters at this station in Kandahar. But it’s still early…