Huge logistical challenges of the 2009 Afghan elections

2 Aug 2009

Huge logistical challenges of the 2009 Afghan elections

KABUL - As the final weeks approach for the 20 August presidential and provincial council elections the massive logistical operation behind organizing the polls is becoming clear.

A two step plan has been formulated by Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission and the UN’s elections support project UNDP/ELECT.

Firstly all election materials need to be delivered from the IEC’s main depot in Kabul to the provinces; this is then followed by delivery from the provinces to the districts.

Delivery to the provinces is broken down into four phases.

The first and the second phase involves transporting non-sensitive materials including public outreach materials, voting screens, tents, plastic tables and chairs for the polling stations.

The third phase includes sensitive materials such as ballot boxes, mock ballot papers, polling station kits, counting kits, various guidelines, procedures, training kits, forms and more.

The fourth phase is the main logistical operation for the elections, which includes sensitive material such as presidential and provincial ballot papers, ink, polling centre kits and blue boxes.

This year access to certain areas of Afghanistan is one of the major challenges facing election organizers.

"We don’t have enough access to the south provinces in remote areas," said Ahmad Bilal, head of logistics at the IEC.

In addition, “whether election materials can be delivered on time or not will be another big challenge,” Mr Bilal added.


In the past two weeks nearly eighteen million presidential and provincial council ballot papers were delivered by five B747 flights from the UK and two A300 flights from China.

Six hundred presidential ballot papers and two bottles of inks will be assigned to each polling station.

More than 23,000 blue boxes will carry these ballot papers, 95,638 ballot boxes will be used for the casting of votes and more than six million different public outreach materials have already been distributed to the 34 provinces of Afghanistan.

The presidential and provincial ballot papers were printed in the UK, the plastic furniture was manufactured in Pakistan, while the majority of public outreach materials including posters and brochures were produced in Afghanistan.

So far the deliveries of non-sensitive materials from Kabul to the provinces are almost completed and the deliveries of sensitive materials are expected to be completed in the coming week.

"Fortunately, nothing has been badly delayed so far," Mr Bilal said.

From the provinces to the districts, non-sensitive items are mostly delivered by vehicles, though within the districts, some provinces such as Badakhshan, Parwan, Panjsher and Samangan will need more traditional forms of transport: more than 3,000 donkeys will be used during these elections.

Almost 700 trucks are being used for distributions from Kabul to the provinces and 2,341 trucks will be used from the provinces to the districts.

Sensitive materials will be delivered by road and air. The IEC and UNDP/ELECT has rented three MI-8 helicopters and two planes which will cover most of the provinces connected to the Kabul, Herat and Kandahar regions.

The Afghan National Army, National Police and international military forces will provide security escorts for most of the road missions for the distribution of sensitive materials.

All election materials are expected to be distributed to the provinces by 7 August.

By Kangying Guo, UNAMA

Website: Afghanistan Independent Election Commission