The U.S. national security adviser on Sunday praised Afghanistan's landmark legislative elections as a "remarkable success story" and urged all candidates to accept the results peacefully.
On a visit to Afghanistan a week after its first parliamentary elections in more than three decades, Stephen J. Hadley also said the vote would show other countries in the region _ which includes several authoritarian governments _ that "democracy and freedom are possible today."
Standing next to the chairman of the U.N.-Afghan body that conducted the elections, Hadley said he had received a report on the vote and called it a "remarkable success story," saying Afghans voted in "impressive numbers" and the organizers tackled serious challenges.
U.S. and other Western officials hope the elections will help Afghanistan move toward stability after a quarter-century of war. But there is concern that its legacy of violence could persist as a parliament and local councils are formed following the announcement of results.
The voting was the last formal step on a path to democracy laid out after the ouster of the Taliban by U.S.-led forces in 2001, when the hardline Islamic group's leaders refused to hand over al-Qaida leader Osama bin laden after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States.
Hadley was upbeat about the estimated turnout of 6.8 million, or about 55 percent, though it was a significant drop from the 70 percent for U.S.-backed Hamid Karzai's election as president last October, AP reports.
Afghanistan is a neighbor of Pakistan, U.S. foe Iran and countries in Central Asia that have authoritarian governments _ including Uzbekistan, whose leadership has been at odds with Washington over human rights and democracy after a bloody crackdown on protesters in May.