"While holding elections is an achievement under the circumstances, questions remain about whether Afghans will really be able to exercise their right to vote," said the human rights group's Asia director, Brad Adams, said in a release. "Violence, plans to use irregular security forces at polling stations, unequal access of candidates to state media and conditions affecting women are of particular concern."
Concerning women participating fully in the election, the organization said the government and international organizations have done little to counter cultural obstacles and potential attacks by the Taliban and other insurgent groups.
"Women voters have been badly let down by their government and its international backers," Adams said. "To leave challenging problems like recruiting female staff to the weeks before the election was a serious failing."
Human Rights Watch said the overall security situation is considerably worse than during the last elections in 2004-2005. The organization said one Afghan man said, "In Zabul, you can't go around without a turban -- security for the elections is less than weak."
The independence of the country's electoral commission was compromised by President Hamid Karzai's appointing the head of the commission without any parliamentary oversight, the group said. Also, the group said it has learned of instances of abuse of power, including misuse of government resources, which benefited Karzai.