South Bend mayor watching political struggles in Afghanistan during military deployment

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SOUTH BEND, Indiana — The mayor of South Bend has been keeping an eye on the political struggle for the presidency of Afghanistan during his military deployment to that country.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg stepped down from office in late February to serve as a Naval Reserve intelligence officer in Afghanistan, where his work has included trying to block narcotics trade money from reaching insurgents.

Buttigieg told South Bend television stations via Skype on Tuesday that others he serves with sometimes use "mayor" as a nickname for him, but he doesn't get any special treatment while living in a converted shipping container.

"When you're in a deployed environment, the most important thing is your ability to do your job," he told WSJV-TV.

The 32-year-old Democrat was elected mayor of the 100,000-person city in 2011.

Buttigieg, a lieutenant in the Naval Reserve, said he's been interested in the election process to replace Afghan President Hamid Karzai ahead of the withdrawal of foreign combat forces by the end of this year. An audit is taking place under international supervision of all 8 million ballots cast last month in the second round of the country's presidential election.

"An election in a country where a lot of the population is nomadic and not everybody can read, obviously presents some different challenges from what we're used to back at home when it comes to getting out the vote," he told WNDU-TV.

Buttigieg said he's been having weekly internet conversations with acting Mayor Mark Neal and other city officials while he's been gone. Buttigieg said he expects to be back in South Bend in October.

"I tell you I can't wait," he said. "I'm obviously proud and honored to do what I do here, but that date can't come soon enough."

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