By Alex Stevenson
Associated Press, Aug. 17, 2009: A former journalist who has lived in Afghanistan since 2001 and is now an adviser to U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said she personally bought 10 voter registration cards on the black market. "I could have bought a thousand if I had wanted to. And I could take those or somebody could take those into a polling place, you know, one of the more remote ones, and just fill out ballots in the names of those people whose cards you have," Sarah Chayes said on MSNBC last month.(Photo: REUTERS/Hamid Shalizi)
The legitimacy of this week's crucial Afghanistan elections has been called into question, after the full price Britain's soldiers are paying to provide security for the poll was revealed yesterday.
It emerged this morning that bribes have been offered to buy votes and that voting cards have been put up for sale.
An undercover Afghan journalist working for the BBC discovered he could purchase voting cards at £6 per card.
The finding reflects wider concerns about the neutrality of government staff and suspicion that some voters have received multiple voting cards.
It comes after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) revealed yesterday there were 94 British casualties in July - four times as many as there were in May.
On Thursday Afghan voters will vote in the first round of a presidential election in which over 30 candidates are standing. Local elections are taking place the same day.
British forces have already engaged in Operation Panther's Claw, opening up the fertile area around Babaji in Helmand between the province's economic and political capitals, Lashkar Gah and Gereshk.
Diverting soldiers to protect the ground won has meant thinner numbers elsewhere, resulting in the sharp spike in injury figures seen yesterday.
Officials in London have already acknowledged this week's elections will be far from perfect.
The British ambassador in Afghanistan, Mark Sedwill, told journalists earlier this month that by western standards the Afghan poll was bound to be inadequate.
"The test for me is does the outcome reflect the will of the people?" he said.
"I believe we can achieve elections that are a success, that do reflect the will of the people."
The challenge of providing security for the poll, corrupted or not by electoral fraud, was underlined by a rocket attack on the presidential palace in Kabul this morning.