Sunday, September 6, 2009


Vote rigging, ballot box stuffing, duplicate ballots, validity and final outcome of elections in doubt, no we are not talking about Iranian elections but Afghan elections supervised by U.S. and NATO. In one District alone, not a single vote was caste and yet all 38,000 votes showed up in one candidate's column. Where is the outrage? Why are the U.S. leaders not raving and ranting about it and why is Mr. Fareed Zakaria not blowing hot and cold on CNN's GPS Program?

Before the elections, NATO's representative in charge of overseeing the elections foolishly claimed an expected 80% voter turnout. The actual number seems well below 30%. Even in India, a country with perpetual 62 year democracy and frequent election history, voter turnout has not yet reached 80%, it is usually around 60%.

Obviously NATO does not understand Afghanistan where half the population i.e. women are not allowed by their husbands/fathers to go out of their houses let alone participate in elections. This shows a complete lack of understanding of Afghan culture and realities on the ground. It begs the question, if after eight years of presence on the ground, U.S. and NATO still do not understand Afghanistan, then what are they doing there?

The West is trying to succeed in Afghanistan by pinning its hopes on two men with tainted background. Mr. Hamid Karzai's is alleged to have enriched himself through corruption and by giving free reign to his brother, reported to be the biggest drug czar in Afghanistan. Mr. Abdullah Abdullah represents the Northern Alliance, a group with criminal history. When Kabul fell during the civil war under Alliance's control for a couple of months, they looted every house, murdered many able bodied men and raped as many women as they could. Also, a component of the Alliance headed by Rashid Dostum of Mazar-e-Sharif, who after the U.S. invasion is alleged to have killed over 1,000 people by locking them in cargo containers for months on end without food or water. Mr. Abdullah Abdullah may not himself be involved in any killings, but he is supported by these criminal elements. Hoping that people like Karzai and Abdullah can bring renaissance to Afghanistan is like handing over power to the I.R.A. in Northern Ireland and the Mafia in the U.S.

Afghanistan needs reconciliation and new leadership. It needs new faces and until new leadership is developed, civility and peace is not likely return to that country. The West's efforts of nation building are doomed to failure as long as it continues to provide oxygen to leaders with criminal background in Afghanistan.


Mike's Common Sense said...

I am sure your observations are correct but I still feel the election in Afghanistan was still better than that in Iran. After all, no decision has come out of Afghanistan. True, the principal candidates have shady backgrounds, or questionable acts in their pasts, that seems to be true of most politicans everywhere.
I agree that Afghanistan has severe problems to overcome and that the western nations in truth do not know what to do.
But, where is the help being offered from other Islamic democracies? Where is the input from Indonesia, Eqypt (I know questionable democracy) or even Pakistan?
In truth are there any Islamic democracies that can be an example to Afghanistan?
I agree that we westerners are influenced by what we do not understand, women having no rights, lack of education, a life style out of the Middle Ages with the exception of the AK47 and the RPG.
Where or whom can the west go to for answers? Why haven't the other Islamic nations taken the lead? What should happen next?

Ajaz Haque said...

Mike, you make excellent observations. Indeed the Muslim countries have not taken the lead in helping the West either in Iraq or Afghanistan. The probable reason for that is, U.S. did not consult any Muslim countries before attacking Iraq. This does not mean they approved Saddam Husein's methods, indeed many detested him, but no nation has right to attack another at will. Only when things starting going wrong in Iraq did the U.S. approached Muslim countries for help, but then it was too late.

Pakistan has borne the brunt of U.S. policy in Afghanistan. It played a crucial and an active role in defeating the Soviets in Afghanistan. However, after Soviets left Afghanistan, the U.S. not only packed up from there leaving behind a vast array of arms and missiles in the hands of Mujaheddin, it also slapped economically crippling sanctions against Pakistan, which made many Pakistanis ask - Is this the result of cooperation with the U.S.? It is only recently that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has openly acknowledged the blunder of treating Pakistan in that manner. The current war also pushes Afghan Taliban into Pakistan from time to time, creating havoc and destabilizing that country

U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was seen by most Muslim countries as justifiable because of Al-Qaeda's home base in that country. However, once the invasion was successful, many expected that U.S. and NATO will quickly move from war towards reconciliation and building works and economic development in that impoverished country.

Taliban were completely routed at that stage and no longer had a critical mass to be a significant threat. But Bush era's policy of continued partnership with Northern Alliance rather than building bridges with all major ethnic groups turned a vast segment of Pashtun (the majority ethnic group) population against the U.S. Also, air attacks on civilian population and CIA's brilliant scheme of allowing Afghans to freely grow poppy again (hoping this will win them over) has had disastrous consequences. Taliban have risen again from the ashes and are more powerful today than they were immediately after the invasion. They have free flow of cash from poppy crops to buy arms and equipment. Each air strike like the one last week, produces hundreds of new Taliban recruits.

As I had suggested in one of my earlier posts, the need is to bring Taliban to the table and make them part of the political process. Unlike Al-Qaeda, they have no agenda or fight with the West, except for wanting foreign troops out of Afghanistan. A political process that brings them into fold will speed that up and enable foreign forces to leave sooner rather than later. Some Taliban leaders including Mullah Omar have recently indicated willingness to talk, but hard headed Pentagon policy makers keep talking about "killing the Taliban" and that is no way to start a dialogue. The British are already talking to local Taliban commanders and it is time the U.S. started talking to Taliban's national leaders.

It is time to bring this brutal war to an end and bring peace and reconciliation to Afghanistan.