The poisonous tree of counterinsurgency continues to bear fruit in Afghanistan. Reports indicate that tensions are rising over the fraudulent election. The potential for violence is very real. President Karzai’s main opponent in the election, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, has ruled out participation in a unity government and flatly stated he will not accept an election result that returns Karzai to power. A doctrine that views the situation as “with the government or against it” is dangerous and will inflame the situation.
From The Washington Post:
…tension and suspicion have mounted as the vote count drags on amid widening charges of electoral fraud. Afghans are confused, jittery and bracing for street violence — or at least a protracted period of political polarization and drift.
Hundreds of tribal elders and officials from southern Afghanistan gathered in Kabul yesterday to protest against alleged electoral fraud that robbed entire districts of their votes and allocated them to President Karzai.
In a string of searing testimonies, community leaders told of villages that had been too terrified to vote because of Taleban threats — yet had mysteriously produced full ballot boxes. They said that most of the phantom votes had been cast for Mr Karzai, often by his own men or tribal leaders loyal to him.
“How is it that in a district which a governor can only visit once every two years, where it’s too dangerous for the police to go, where even Nato can’t fly — how come there were 20,000 votes collected?” asked Hamidullah Tokhy, a tribal elder from Kandahar province.
Some of the gathered leaders went so far as to pledge armed resistance should the election commission (all Karzai appointees, led by an outspoken Karzai partisan) validate the corrupted election. Of particular worry is this pledge of violent resistance from a leader in Helmand, into which U.S. forces have pushed to attempt to challenge the Taliban:
Haji Abdul Manan, an elder from Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province, where British Forces have engaged in heavy fighting with the Taleban, said that most people had been too scared to venture out on election day. “In all the districts there was fraud. Nobody could vote, but the ballot boxes were full of votes for Hamid Karzai,” he said.
Earlier, speaking on the podium, Mr Manan called for a violent response to the fraud, a sign that disenchantment with the polls could further aggravate Afghanistan’s already bloody political landscape.
“I implore military resistance. I swear to God, if an Islamic government does not take office we’re against it,” he said. “The Americans are entering our houses. Our sons are being killed,” he added.
Lashkar Gah is a major Pashtun population center; an uprising there would be a nightmare. It should go without saying that if anti-government violence breaks out in Helmand and other Pashtun regions independent of the incitement of the Taliban, there would be absolutely no room to argue against the conclusion that counterinsurgency has failed (I already believe this to be the case; however a widespread uprising would confirm it beyond a shadow of a doubt.).
President Obama is now ensnared in a trap of counterinsurgency’s making. Should violence break out, motivated not by jihadist extremism or Taliban-inspired ultra-nationalism but by popular rejection of the legitimacy of the Karzai government, counterinsurgency doctrine will offer absolutely no useful guidance. Define “insurgency” in this situation against which we must be the “counterinsurgents.” How would a counterinsurgent distinguish between a man with an AK-47 attacking government buildings motivated by jihadism versus patriotism? You can see where this is going.
P.S. Considering the history of the last eight months, now is the exact wrong time to add more troops. Prior to the last escalation, much was written about the possibility of intensified U.S. pressure leading to the re-fusion of the various insurgent factions and al-Qaida. Those concerns turned out to be prescient. Should a popular violent outbreak occur, you should expect the same dynamic to play out between those rejecting the Karzai government and the Taliban insurgents.
P.S.S. Enjoy your weekend, Mr. President.