No Clear Ally in Afghanistan

As the Obama administration heads toward a critical decision on its Afghanistan strategy, the repercussions of a blatantly rigged national election call into question the U. S. alliance with President Hamid Karzai.

Counting ballots in Kabul (Source: AP)

Counting ballots in Kabul (Source: AP)

The election, which occurred on August 20, 2009, has still not been decided as a U.N.- backed commission attempts to identify possibly millions of fraudulently cast ballots. According to the Electoral Complains Commission (ECC), up to one third of the votes cast for Karzai are suspect. The ECC is expected to decide whether Karzai is the legitimate winner, or if a run-0ff election will need to be held with his opponent Abdullah Abdullah.

The election monitoring process has been beset with setbacks and controversy to a troubling degree. After being removed from his post in the ECC last month, former U.N. representative Peter Galbraith wrote an article for Time magazine accusing the commission of turning a blind eye to a huge number of suspect ballots. Afghani committee member Maulavi Mustafa Barakzai resigned from his post this week in what many consider a political move to discredit the electoral review process.

One point on which everyone can agree is that fraud did in fact occur in the August election. Even Karzai himself admitted in an interview with Diane Sawyer: “There were instances of fraud, no doubt. There were irregularities.” So the only matter of contention is the exact degree of the fraud, and whether it changed the outcome of the election.

However, what about the other critical questions such as: 1) Who was behind the fraud? 2) If it was Karzai and his supporters (which stands to reason), should the United States be supporting a leader with such a poor democratic track record? And finally, how can the U.S. overcome this entrenched corruption and promote accountable government – a key element of McChrystal’s proposed strategy?

Posted by Mary Tharin

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