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Afghanistan: Democracy in the Balance

Afghan woman registers voters Afghan man registers voters Registered Afghan voter

Left to right: A government voter registration worker snaps photos of women, a man shows voter registration rolls, and a newly registered voter. Photos: Tom Bullock, NPR

In September, Afghans will vote in the first democratic election in their country's history. But with just a few months to go, the central government and the international community are still trying to register millions of eligible voters and bring security to the country -- both key to conducting a successful election.

Learn more about the stories in this series of reports:

Disarming Afghanistan's Warlords
Soldier in new Afghan army. Photo: Tom Bullock, NPR'

Commanding private armies and controlling vast sections of the country, there is little chance that democracy can come to Afghanistan if its warlords aren't disarmed by this September's election. NPR's Renee Montagne reports on efforts to disarm these powerful figures and how they are re-inventing themselves as political leaders.

The Warlord of Herat
Ismail Khan, warlord of Herat. Photo: Tom Bullock, NPR'

A major obstacle to democracy in Afghanistan could be the nation's powerful warlords. Montagne profiles the warlord ruler of Herat, on the border with Iran, whose cooperation -- and willingness to give up some power -- may hold the fate of a nation.

Bringing Mullahs into the Fold
Mullahs study to Koran at a mosque in Kandahar. Photo: Tom Bullock, NPR'

Afghanistan's interim government is working to convince religious leaders, or mullahs, to support a push to register voters for the war-torn nation's first-ever democratic elections. But elements of the deposed Taliban regime still lurk in the shadows, promising violent retribution.

Women's Barriers to Voting
Women register to vote in Afghanistan. Photo: Tom Bullock, NPR'

Efforts are under way in Afghanistan to register at least seven million eligible voters. International volunteers say they face many cultural obstacles convincing women to take a more active civic role.

Karzai Keeps the Peace
Hamid Karzai. Photo: Tom Bullock, NPR'

Hamid Karzai has led Afghanistan through the transition from Taliban rule and two years of reconstruction. Now he's preparing Afghanistan for its first democratic election. He voices his desires for the future of his nation.


Renee Montagne: Back to Afghanistan

Renee Montagne
NPR's Renee Montagne spent a month in Afghanistan talking to a big cross-section of Afghans -- farmers, shopkeepers, housewives clad in burkas and the women signing them up to vote, mullahs and intellectuals -- about the challenge of creating a democratic government.
» Re-Creating Afghanistan
Montagne's series of reports in 2002 on rebuilding efforts in the war-torn nation.
» Afghanistan's Cultural Re-Awakening
» Latest NPR Stories on Afghanistan

photo gallery iconPhoto Gallery: Afghan Women Register to Vote

photo gallery iconPhoto Gallery: Mullahs of Kandahar

photo gallery iconPhoto Gallery: Afghan Strongman Ismail Khan

photo gallery iconPhoto Gallery: Graveyards as an Afghan Standard