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Photos: Preparing to vote in Afghanistan

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  1. Independent Election Commission workers carry election kits into Jamee Mosque in the western city of Herat on Aug 19, a day ahead of nationwide elections. Millions of Afghans are voting for president for only the second time in history, although preparations have been overshadowed by Taliban threats to attack polling stations, which could to keep voters away in droves. (Behrouz Mehri / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A policeman stands guard in front of election posters in Kabul on Aug. 19. The country is not at peace nearly eight years after U.S.-backed forces ousted the Taliban, and Afghans head to the polls amid growing frustration at official corruption, the slow pace of reconstruction and growing civilian deaths at the hands of foreign and Afghan troops, as well as militants. The Taliban has rallied and now controls up to a third of the country. (Kevin Frayer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A policeman argues with a news photographer, denying him access to an area in Kabul close to where gunmen earlier stormed a building on Aug. 19. The heart of the country's capital reverberated with gunfire and explosions as men with AK-47 rifles and hand grenades overran a bank. Police then moved in, killing the three. Journalists in the country have said they would not obey an order from the government to refrain from reporting news about violence during Thursday's election. (Paula Bronstein / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Afghans living in Chaman, Pakistan, cross into Afghanistan to cast their ballots on the eve of presidential and provincial council elections. Millions of Afghans fled the country during the more than a quarter century of war and isolation that followed the Soviet invasion. While many of these refugees have returned to their home country, neighbors such as Iran and Pakistan still house an estimated 3 million Afghans. (Akhtar Gulfam / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Taliban fighters pose with weapons while detaining a man who was campaigning for presidential candidate Mullah Abdul Salam Rocketi in an undisclosed location on Aug. 19. The former bodybuilder and Taliban commander earned the moniker "Rocketi" for his fondness for high-tech weaponry. The Taliban, which has seen a resurgence since it was ousted by U.S.-backed forces at the end of 2001, urged Afghans to stay away from the poll, dismissing the balloting as an "American process," and threatened to block the roads to polling stations. (Stringer/afghanistan / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Soldiers serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force secure the site of a suicide car bombing in Kabul on Aug. 18. Deadly attacks battered Afghanistan and a rocket slammed into the presidential compound just days before the Aug. 20 elections that the Taliban have threatened to disrupt. (Shah Marai / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A man carries a boy who was wounded in an explosion in Kabul on Aug. 18. Security forces were on high alert as the Taliban vowed to disrupt the poll. Afghanistan has suffered from decades of war and economic deprivation and has seen a steep rise in fighting in recent years as the Taliban again grows in power. Many Afghans are angry at the pace of reconstruction, which has been weighted down by ongoing fighting, security problems and charges of corruption and mismanagement. (Pedro Ugarte / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A crowd welcomes General Abdul Rashid Dostum from exile during a ceremony in Shibergan in the north of the country on Aug. 17. The ethnic Uzbek militia leader returned to Afghanistan from Turkey in the face of threats by his supporters to withdraw support for President Hamid Karzai in the upcoming election. Karzai has been derided for emboldening warlords, who hold sway over swaths of the country. Few of these former militia chiefs are viewed with more suspicion by the West than Dostum, a whisky-drinking ex-Communist general who is blamed for massive human rights violations and whose militia repeatedly changed sides during the civil war. Dostum won 10 percent of the vote during the last election in 2004, and his support could help tip the balance for Karzai. (Caren Firouz / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Supporters reach out to presidential hopeful Abdullah Abdullah, Hamid Karzai's main rival, during a rally on the last day of campaigning on Aug. 17 in Kabul. Abdullah, a medical doctor by training, fought the Soviet occupation in the 1980s and was a member of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance when violence engulfed the country after the U.S.S.R.’s withdrawal. He was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs in the wake of the Taliban's defeat in 2001 and joined the government headed by his now-rival Karzai. (Paula Bronstein / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Abdullah Abdullah waves to supporters during an electoral rally in the capital Kabul during the last day of campaigning on Aug. 17. His popularity has soared recently, with 26 percent of respondents saying they would vote for him, according to a recent poll. In a May poll only 7 percent backed him. (Pedro Ugarte / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Boys with donkeys carry ballot boxes near the village of Baba Ali in Panjshir, north of Kabul, on Aug. 17. Some 3,100 burros have been hired to carry the poll materials, underscoring the logistical difficulties facing election officials in one of the world's poorest countries. (Rafiq Maqbool / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A girl listens to a speech by candidate and current President Hamid Karzai during a live debate in capital Kabul on Aug. 16. (Farzana Wahidy / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Men dance during an election rally in support of President Hamid Karzai in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, on Aug. 16. (Omar Sobhani / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Workers load election ballots onto trucks headed to polling stations at the Independent Election Commission compound in capital Kabul on Aug. 16. (Dima Gavrysh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Men use mobile phone cameras to take pictures of presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai during an election campaign stop in Kandahar on Aug. 15. Ashfraf Ghani, who holds a doctorate in anthropology and worked for the World Bank for many years, was the country's finance minister under President Hamid Karzai after the Taliban was ousted in 2001. He is now deeply critical of Karzai’s administration, saying entrenched official corruption aids Taliban militants. (David Guttenfelder / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Ashraf Ghani, at a rally in Kandahar on Aug. 15, is thought to be one of the top five presidential contenders but not likely to win. Ashraf Ghani and fellow candidate and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah both cite rising civilian casualties, searching of homes without permission and arresting people without cause as major reasons for opposing the presence of American and other international forces on Afghan soil. (Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Supporters of Ramazan Bashardost hold an Afghan national flag while following the presidential candidate's convoy in the western city of Herat on Aug. 15. Bashardost, an ethnic Hazara and a former planning minister in the government of now- rival Hamid Karzai, is very critical of the way foreign aid is administered and the role of non-governmental organizations in the reconstruction of war-torn Afghanistan. (Behrouz Mehri / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. An ethnic Hazara woman, training to head a polling station, leads a room of mostly men in rehearsing election procedures in Bamiyan, in the central part of the country on Aug. 15. (Adress Latif / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Supporters of presidential candidate and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah hold his election campaign poster in Kabul on Aug. 15. (Dima Gavrysh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. A man sits in front of a helicopter being loaded with election supplies to be taken to remote villages at the airport in Faizabad in the northeastern province of Badakhshan on Aug. 14. (Caren Firouz / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A man shields himself from dust behind a billboard of incumbent Hamid Karzai, one of 41 presidential election candidates, in Kabul on Aug. 13. (Pedro Ugarte / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Burqa clad women from rural areas attend a workshop organized by the Women Affair's Ministry to learn the process of ballot casting in the capital Kabul on Aug. 12. While women now have the right to vote and go to school, most still do not know how to read and write and a large proportion are married off as children. Afghanistan has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world and girls throughout the country risk injury and death at the hands of militants simply for attending school. (S. Sabawoon / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Girls wearing tiaras are seen through a taxi window with a campaign poster of Abdullah Abdullah, a candidate running for president in upcoming elections, in Kabul on Aug. 11. . (Adrees Latif / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Afghan elders put a turban on the head of candidate and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah to show their support during a campaign rally in Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban, on Aug. 12. Afghan President Hamid Karzai was long seen as the inevitable winner, but Abdullah has emerged as his top challenger and appears to have closed at least part of the gap with a campaign focusing on government mismanagement, corruption and rising violence. (Allauddin Khan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Afghan National Army soldiers prepare themselves before being deployed to polling stations for upcoming election, in Kabul on Aug. 12. Thousands of U.S., NATO and Afghan troops pushed into militant strongholds before election day but with days to go, around nine districts were still under insurgent control making voting difficult, authorities said. (Ahmad Masood / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. A billboard near a tire repair workshop shows Afghans how to cast their votes in the upcoming presidential election in Kabul on Aug. 12. (Musadeq Sadeq / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Supporters of former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah cheer during an election campaign rally in Jaghuri district, Ghazi province, on Aug 11. (Rafiq Maqbool / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Afghans march and carry posters of Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Jalalabad, Nangarhar, on Aug. 11. The president has roused supporters with promises to hold international troops more accountable during his first campaign appearance in the capital. (Rahmat Gul / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. President Hamid Karzai's main rival and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah naps in a helicopter after a long day of campaigning on Aug. 11. (Paula Bronstein / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Afghanistan’s most acclaimed pop singer Farhad Darya gives a concert at a stadium in Kabul on Aug 11. Darya urged the audience to participate in the Aug. 20 elections.

    Watch a music video by Farhad Darya. (Musadeq Sadeq / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Men look over copies of presidential and provincial ballot papers during an exercise that is part of an election awareness program in Kabul on Aug. 6. (Musadeq Sadeq / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai arrives for a campaign rally in Kabul on Aug. 7. (Farzana Wahidy / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Men listen to a speech by presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah during campaign stop in Parwan province on July 26. (Rafiq Maqbool / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. President Hamid Karzai, right, greets supporters during an election rally in Kabul on July 24. (Rafiq Maqbool / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Karzai's main challenger in upcoming elections, Abdullah Abdullah, center, greets supporters during a campaign stop in Parwan province, north of Kabul, on July 26. (Rafiq Maqbool / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Election posters for Sima Matin, one of 328 women running for seats in Afghanistan's 34 provincial councils, hang in the window of a shop in Shirak Pirak in Kapisa province, north of Kabul, on July 28. Women running for office in Afghanistan face an uphill battle against social norms. In a country where most women still wear the burqa and do not speak to men outside their immediate family, female candidates endanger their lives by putting up posters of their uncovered faces and for trying to explain their platforms to male voters. (Rafiq Maqbool / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Haji Rozuddin shows fraudulent voter registration cards in Logar province on July 1. He keeps hundreds of falsified registration cards to sell to anyone wanting to cast a vote in this month's presidential election. Amid record death tolls for foreign troops, Western donors are paying many millions to fund the August 20 election. But many observers fear the poll will be marred by fraud. (Hamid Shalizi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. A cell phone card vendor and currency changer waits for customers under posters of presidential candidates in Kabul on July 28. (Ahmad Masood / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. A barber watches presidential candidates debate on television at his shop in Kabul on July 23. Two leading candidates in the Aug. 20 election, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, faced each other in an unprecedented television appearance, which went ahead despite a decision by President Hamid Karzai not to take part. (Rafiq Maqbool / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Women listen to presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah at a rally in Kabul Stadium on August 3. (Lucy Nicholson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. President Hamid Karzai, second from right, reaches out to shake hands with his supporters during his election campaign in Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug 7. (Rafiq Maqbool / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Presidential candidate Shahla Atta, right, talks to a supporter after speaking at a campaign rally in Kabul on July 29. Atta is one of two women running for president out of a field of 41. When Atta announced her candidacy in March, she promised to speed-up reconstruction, provide free treatment to drug addicts, reform the justice system and use foreign aid more judiciously. She has also pledged to better the lot of the country's women, many of whom have made great strides since the deeply conservative Taliban fell from power. (Julie Jacobson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Women take part in a campaign rally for incumbent Hamid Karzai in Daraye Kaihan valley, Baghlan province, on July 31. Residents of Baghlan, like many around the country, regularly suffer at the hands of warlords who steal, kill and rape, usually without fear of punishment. (Omar Sobhani / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. Supporters of presidential candidate and current President Hamid Karzai wait to take part in a rally in Daraye Kaihan, central Afghanistan, on July 31. (Rafiq Maqbool / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. A man in Chaman, Pakistan, holds up a sample ballot paper for provincial elections in Afghanistan's western province of Herat on July 31. Millions of Afghans fled the country during the more than a quarter century of war and isolation that followed the Soviet invasion. While many of these refugees have returned to their home country, neighbors such as Iran and Pakistan still house an estimated 3 million Afghans. (Matiullah Achakzai / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
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