U.S. President Barack Obama congratulated Afghanistan on its "historic elections" Saturday, calling the event "critical" to securing the country's Democratic future.
"We commend the Afghan people, security forces, and elections officials on the turnout for today’s vote –- which is in keeping with the spirited and positive debate among candidates and their supporters in the run-up to the election," Obama said, according to a White House statement.
Despite high threats of violence, turnout was incredibly high. The Associated Press reported that seven million out of 12 million eligible voters hit the polls, according to preliminary estimates. That number easily eclipsed 2009's turnout, which saw 4.5 million voters hit the polls.
"I am here to vote and I am not afraid of any attacks," Haji Ramazan told the AP while standing at a rain-drenched polling station in Kabul. "This is my right, and no one can stop me."
According to the AP report, due to Afghanistan's steep terrain, results will take around six weeks to compile. The U.S. has spent nearly $90 billion on aid and security training since its 2001 entrance into the country.
Read Obama's full statement below (via The White House):
On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the millions of Afghans who enthusiastically participated in today’s historic elections, which promise to usher in the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan’s history and which represent another important milestone in Afghans taking full responsibility for their country as the United States and our partners draw down our forces.
We commend the Afghan people, security forces, and elections officials on the turnout for today’s vote –- which is in keeping with the spirited and positive debate among candidates and their supporters in the run-up to the election.
These elections are critical to securing Afghanistan’s democratic future, as well as continued international support, and we look to the Afghan electoral bodies to carry out their duties in the coming weeks to adjudicate the results –- knowing that the most critical voices on the outcome are those of Afghans themselves.
Today, we also pay tribute to the many Americans –- military and civilian –- who have sacrificed so much to support the Afghan people as they take responsibility for their own future.
The United States continues to support a sovereign, stable, unified, and democratic Afghanistan, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the new government chosen by the Afghan people on the basis of mutual respect and mutual accountability.