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Afghan Women Police To Provide Security For Elections

An Afghan policewoman searches a burqa-clad woman entering a polling station in Herat in August 2009 voting.
An Afghan policewoman searches a burqa-clad woman entering a polling station in Herat in August 2009 voting.
KABUL -- Afghanistan's security forces have been bolstered by thousands of women officers as they go on high alert ahead of nationwide parliamentary elections on September 18, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports.

Zamari Bashari, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, told RFE/RL that at least 5,000 female police officers will help provide security at polling stations that are designated only for women voters in various parts of the country.

The Afghan government reportedly has a total of some 200,000 national police (ANP).

Afghanistan has in recent years accelerated efforts to establish a female police force to reduce the overwhelming disparity in the numbers of male and female officers.

Policewomen serve a number of important functions to enforce laws in Afghanistan's religiously conservative society, including dealing with female criminals and frisking women suspects.

In readying itself for the September 18 voting, Bashari said the ANP is undergoing "first-class preparations."

He added that "based on a final agreement, 5,816 polling stations will open across the country. We hope that based on our security measures we can open all these stations."

Some 1,100 polling stations will not open due to a lack of security.

At least 110,000 Afghan security forces, including the ANP and the Afghan National Army, will be deployed during the elections. According to authorities in Kabul, at least 52,000 of that total will be police.

The Marjah district in the southern Helmand Province -- which has long been a battleground between the Taliban on one side and U.S.-led foreign troops and Afghan army on the other -- will also participate in the elections.

But four large districts in the province will not have any polling stations due to security concerns.

At least four parliamentary candidates have been killed during the campaign season and many more have received death threats. Several campaign workers have also been killed.