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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 election.

Article added on November 1, 2009
A failed strategy in Afghanistan
  
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 announced “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.



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 enterprise.

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.

Sheet music of the Great American Songbook.





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