Afghan vows tight security on poll

KABUL: Afghanistan's defence ministry pledged Wednesday to improve security for the country's presidential run-off, after Taliban intimidation contributed to low turnout at the first round in August.

"Afghan security forces with the help of God almighty... and the cooperation of international troops, are prepared to provide even better security for the second round of elections," the ministry said.

Security has been one of the main challenges in the election.

At least 26 civilians and security personnel were killed in 135 largely small-scale Taliban ambushes, rocket attacks and blasts in the first round of the elections on August 20, the government said after the vote.

Both candidates -- incumbent President Hamid Karzai and his main challenger Abdullah Abdullah -- have called for tighter security for the November 7 run-off, amid worsening stability across the country.

The defence ministry said it would hold daily meetings with all organisations involved in the polls, including the election commission, the United Nations and NATO forces to better coordinate security efforts.

Lessons would be learned from the first round, it added.

The Afghan army, police and intelligence agency would use "all their ability and capacity" to provide a safe environment for the upcoming polls.

Analysts have said a lack of security led to widespread fraud and low voter turnout -- down to five percent in Taliban strongholds -- with the same situation likely to recur in just over two weeks' time.

The ministry said joint operations between NATO and Afghan troops had led to improved security in northern Baghlan and Kunduz provinces, western Herat and Farah, as well as Zabul and Uruzgan in the south.