Afghan presidential election
Added on November 2, 2009 at 15:10 Swiss time
After the withdrawal by Abdullah
Abdullah, the Afghan electoral commission has declared Hamid Karzai the new
Afghan president without holding the runoff election scheduled for November
7 because Karzai had only won 49.67% in the first round of the presidential
Article added on November 1, 2009
A failed strategy in
The Afghan runoff election took a
new turn on November 1st when Candidate Abdullah Abdullah announced that he
would not take part in the second round of the 2009 Afghan presidential
election. Abdullah's boycott reduces the legitimacy of the remaining
candidate, President Hamid Karzai, who had already cooked up the first
election round. This will further hamper the credibility of the US-led
occupying forces, which will actually (continue to) work for the corrupt and
incompetent Karzai regime. Abdullah may not have been a better choice and
may not have had a chance to win anyway. We will never find out. No
choice, no change.
The ways of President Obama are
mysterious - or rather: erratic. On March 27, 2009 with both Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at his side, he
“a comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan”. During the American
presidential campaign he had spoken of the “war of necessity“ in
Afghanistan, in opposition to the
“war of choice“ in Iraq. One could assume the beginning of a new
strategy at the end of March. In fact, Obama outlined a civilian-military
counterinsurgency campaign to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan. In
Pakistan, the regime later started to tackle their own Taliban problem. In
February 2009, Obama had already ordered to send 17,000 additional soldiers
and at the end of March to send 4,000 additional instructors to Afghanistan.
The American president had also replaced the US commander in Afghanistan by
a man of his choice, Stanley McChrystal. General McChrystal had been in
charge of counterterrorism in Iraq for some five years.
In short, additional 21,000 Americans seemed to be a pretty timid reaction.
McChrystal came to the same conclusion and requested 30,000 to 40,000
additional soldiers (a number of even 60,000 troops has been mentioned) on
August 30, 2009. Even the last number seems to be a minimum since neither
the British under Brown nor the French under
Sarkozy nor the Germans
under Merkel are ready to send (significantly) more troops.
Where is Obama's soft power? If not to more troops, his allies should commit
to more money.
President Obama wants to wait until after the runoff election before sending
additional troops to Afghanistan. He wants to know with whom he will have to
deal first. But it does not make a big difference. Had he sent a much larger
number of troops in March, the first round of the presidential election
could have been better protected in a security situation probably much
better under control. He has hesitated to long and the Afghan democracy has
to pay the price.
According to different sources, the illiteracy rate in Afghanistan is
between 72% and 64%. Anyway, more than half of all Afghans are illiterate.
Education will be a long term task for the US and its allies. At least a
decade of Western presence is needed to create a new generation of teachers
and pupils to turn the educational misery around.
Afghanistan is largely a rural society. Only about a fourth of all Afghans
live in cities. Therefore, a much bigger effort than in Iraq is needed: more
troops, more foreign investments, more aid, more training. Whoever the next
Afghan president will be, a long term presence requesting large sums was
predictable from the very beginning. Obama's hesitating never made sense. A
bold strategy sending at least some 40,000 to 60,000 additional troops,
requesting billions of dollars and massive direct aid (for infrastructure
projects, roads, schools, alternatives to the opium production for farmers,
training for Afghan soldiers and police forces) from allies around the globe
was needed from the very beginning. The bolder the initial effort, the
quicker the situation will get under control with less troops and money
needed subsequently. Obama must show resolve. Without US leadership, both US
allies and above all Afghans will remain unsecure and not commit themselves
to the gigantic efforts needed.
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The fraudulent 2009 Afghan presidential election
The Afghan elections leave many
observers puzzled. Hamid Karzai claimed to have won a majority of the vote in
the first round and therefore to have been reelected. The electoral commission
first confirmed his view, although electoral observers from the European Union
estimated that more than one quarter of the vote was falsified or dubious.
In the first round of the 2009 Afghan presidential election, the incumbent Hamid Karzai
was first said to have won 54.6% and the second best positioned candidate
Abdullah Abdullah 27.8% of the votes. Only after massive pressure and a
partial recount, the results were corrected and Karzai fell below the 50%
mark, making a runoff election unavoidable.
Why have the Western allies not made sure that there is no fraud? The only
way out of the credibility crisis was to organize free and fair elections.
Both the Western and the Afghan leaders have miserably failed in this
The situation in Afghanistan is linked to both Iraq and Pakistan. The latter
is an American ally who managed to develop nuclear weapons and to
proliferate them with total impunity. Furthermore, in Pakistan the US are
confronted to a similar situation as in Afghanistan, a corrupt and
incompetent regime suffering from a lack of legitimacy.
President Obama and the war in Afghanistan
After eight years of war, there is still no
“Enduring Freedom” in Afghanistan. The
“war of necessity” makes the teleprompter president less popular every day.
According to a CNN/ORC poll of late August 2009, 74% of Democrats and 57% of
independent voters oppose the war, whereas 70% of Republican voters still
support it. Obama depends on the opposition to continue his war effort. This
should lead him to compromise on other policy fields. The other possibility
is to abandon his electoral promise of concentrating the US war efforts on
both Afghanistan and Pakistan instead of Iraq. He may reduce troops in both
Iraq and Afghanistan. Arrange himself with the Taliban and just fight al-Kaida,
both in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The situation is somewhat similar to
Bush's failed Iraq strategy. Joe
Biden, Rahm Emanuel, James Jones, John Kerry and other Democrats are
advising the president to reduce US troop levels in Afghanistan. Richard
Holbrooke, Hillary Clinton, oppositional politicians such as John McCain and
Joe Liebermann and above all leading US generals including Stanley
McChrystal, David Petraeus and Admiral Michael Mullen are asking for
additional troops. The time for bold speeches is over. The time for bold
action has arrived.
It is not possible to protect the civil population from the Taliban and al-Kaida
without more troops. To win the hearts and minds of the civil population, a
must in any guerilla war, is a necessity for the Obama administration.
Unless there is another last minute surprise, the Western occupiers will
have to continue to deal with the corrupt and incompetent Karzai
administration after the second round of the Afghan election of November 7.
Karzai is likely to be confirmed in a vote marked by an even lower voter
turnout than the official 38.2% of the first round.
A better communication between the occupiers, the Afghan government and the
regional Afghan leaders as well as between all the above and the
“simple” Afghans will be one of the keys to a durable pacification. This is not
possible without a clear commitment to tackle the evils hunting Afghanistan,
namely the endemic corruption, the incompetence on all levels as well as the
omnipresent drug money. Without an alternative to the opium production,
there will be no peace in Afghanistan.
The Obama administration has not embarked on a totally hopeless journey. A
survey conducted by ABC/BBC/ARD in February 2009 showed that only 6% of all
Afghans stood behind the Taliban. The majority of the local population still
hopes that the West will bring them an improvement of their dire situation.
But as General McChrystal pointed out to in his report, without more troops
and an improved strategy, the situation may definitively get out of control.