U.S. President Barack Obama says on Friday that the Afghan presidential election is an "important step forward" for the country, vowing to "strengthen Afghan security, governance and opportunity."
"This was an important step forward in the Afghan people's effort to take control of their future even as violent extremists are trying to stand in their way," Obama told reporters in the White House.
Regardless of Taliban attacks, millions of Afghans on Thursday went to 7,000 polling stations across the country for voting their president, who is elected for a five-year tenure and could serve a maximum of two terms.
Officials said 27 people were killed in scattered incidents of election-day violence.
Election employees count the votes at a mosque in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, Aug. 20, 2009. Vote counting for the Afghan election started on the evening of Aug. 20. (Xinhua/Zabi Tamanna)
"I was struck by their courage in the face of intimidation and their dignity in the face of disorder. There is a clear contrast between those who seek to control their future at the ballot box and those who kill to prevent that from happening," said Obama, who praised the election as the "first democratic election run by Afghans in over three decades."
"I believe that the future belongs to those who want to build, not those who want to destroy. And that is the future that was sought by the Afghans who went to the polls and the Afghan national security forces who protected them," said the president.
"The United States did not support any candidate in this election," said Obama, adding that his country wants the result "fairly, accurately reflecting the will of the Afghan people."