A leading human rights group says Afghan warlords are trying to undermine Afghanistan's move towards democracy by manipulating the selection of delegates who will choose the next government.
New York-based Human Rights Watch says some local warlords are detaining or beating independent candidates and forcing local residents to approve their chosen candidates for next week's Afghan Grand Council, or Loya Jirga.
The group says Afghan civilians are facing mounting repression and lawlessness as warlords in several provinces continue to grab power in the vacuum created after the fall of the Taliban.
Human Rights Watch said if the warlords succeed, Afghans will be denied the chance to choose their own leaders and build a civil society. They added that this is a make-or-break time for Afghanistan's future.
The Loya Jirga -- which the United Nations helped organize -- will gather about one-thousand-five-hundred Afghans beginning June 10th from around the country in Kabul to choose a government for the next two years, when free elections are scheduled to be held.