As part of the effort to audit the votes of the disputed recent Afghan presidential election, approximately 2,000 ballot boxes from Balkh province and Ghazni province have been moved to Kabul by International Security Assistance Force aircraft, assisted by USAF airmen, according to a July 20 release. The scheduled audit of the vote, to take place over the next four weeks under independent supervision and with support from the UN, will verify an estimated 8.1 million votes cast in the June 14 election, which has been mired in dispute since its conclusion. Lt. Col. Jay Bruner, of Bagram Airfield’s 455th Air Expeditionary Wing, flew the first ballot boxes from Mazar-e Sharif to Kabul, and ISAF expects to tap more airlift assets to move an additional 14,700 ballot boxes over the next 10 days. Observers with the Afghan Independent Election Commission, including representatives of both presidential candidates, are monitoring the transfer of ballots and ensuring they are moved under a rigorous chain of custody to Kabul. Along with facilitating transport, ISAF officials will be assisting the Afghan security forces with securing the storage of ballots in Kabul.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.