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MAZAR-I-SHARIF (Pajhwok): Residents of unstable districts in northern Balkh province say large swaths of their towns remain with Taliban militants who have recently increased attacks despite President Ghani’s promise to bring the situation under control.
President Ghani, during his recent trip to Mazar-i-Sharif, capital of Balkh, had said he would reach out soon to security problems of four Balkh districts and the National Directorate of Security (NDS) would deal with the situation there as a priority.
Residents of Chamtal, Chahar Bolak, Balkh and Dawlatabad districts of the province say that clashes have intensified in their areas over the past two days and many people would be deprived of participation in the October 20 elections if the situation continued.
The residents say the security situation in their districts deteriorated after the president’s trip to the province.
Sufi Jumma Gul, a resident of Chahar Bolak district, told Pajhwok Afghan News that the Taliban captured Yalman village of the district two days ago.
He said Afghan forces operation did not help improve the security situation in the area. “Taliban openly move in Khanabad, Aliabad, Yangargh, Sorian, Zikzik, Arzankar, Bistpikal, Shashpikal and Timorak areas of Chahar Bolak district to Aqcha district of the province,” he said.
He said people from 80 percent of Chahar Bolak villages would be deprived of voting if the situation persisted.
Meanwhile, Abdul Saboor, a resident of Chamtal district, said some key areas of the district fell to Taliban in recent attacks.
He said clashes were ongoing between Afghan forces and militants only a kilometer away from the district center.
Just a day earlier, Taliban entered Chamtal—a central village of the district—and threatened people not to participate in elections, he added. An ongoing operation of Afghan forces in the area remained futile, Saboor said.
“In the last presidential election, around 2,000 people from Chamtal village participated but I don’t think even one polling station would be open here for Wolesi Jirga polls,” he said.
He said President Ghani had promised to ensure security in their areas before elections, but the security situation had instead deteriorated.
Balkh IEC officials also say they transfer electoral materials to only those areas whre Afghan forces have taken security measures.
Mohammad Zahir Akbari, the IEC head for Balkh, said that 41 polling stations were on the brink of being closed in the province.
He said some of the polling stations had been already closed, including 12 stations where a large number of people had registered as voters.
He said they would not open polling stations in unstable areas until security of their staff was ensured.
Security forces have promised to ensure security for elections through military operations, he said.
Balkh security officials say they have launched an operation codenamed Walid-40 for hitting insurgents.
Sher Jan Durani,  Balkh police spokesman, said the joint operation involved personnel from police, Afghan National Army (ANA) and intelligence.
He said they were trying to pave the ground for registered voters to vote on the Election Day.

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