Posts Tagged ‘Karzai’

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit http://rethinkafghanistan.com/blog.

All hail the birth of Afghan democracy!

The willingness of Americans to allow our political leaders to spend $1 million per troop, per year in Afghanistan has been rewarded: we can now stand back in awe as the unpunished perpetrators of massive election fraud vie for control of the criminal enterprise called the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Extra-constitutional President Hamid Karzai (whose initial vote totals were 32.2 percent fraudulent) and prime challenger Abdullah (whose initial vote total was 12.8 percent fraudulent) will face off on November 7. The process of the last election was so corrupt that the UN is replacing 200 — more than half — of the top election officials who were complicit in the fraud. No matter who loses, fraud wins.

So here’s a question for those who are pushing COIN who haven’t totally abandoned their own doctrine’s prerequisites for success (and believe me, those are few and far between these days): what systemic changes have or will be made prior to November 7 that will prevent a replay of the August fiasco? While replacing bad apples is essential, it won’t prevent rot if the barrel itself is corrupted. Recall that during the last round of voting, fraud schemes included:

  • Alliances with warlords, who will deliver votes from their territories for Karzai by hook or by crook. Some have already made threats of reprisal against village elders if they did not cooperate with the vote fraud schemes.
  • Massive registration of underage voters (up to 20 percent of the rolls)
  • Rampant (as in 85-percent occurrence) issuance of multiple voting cards to single individuals, including one case where one person was given about 500 voting cards.
  • Issuance of voting cards to people before they registered.
  • Issuance of cards to women without their physical presence based on lists provided by family (in some provinces this practice was used in 90-99 percent of registration stations).
  • Allowing men to take registration books home for the ostensible purpose of obtaining their women-folk’s fingerprints for registration. This practice, combined with the list practice mentioned above, led to outrageously fraudulent numbers of “women” being issued cards–between double and thirty percent more than the number of cards issued to men. Female Members of Parliament in Afghanistan have called these numbers not credible.
  • Purchase of voting cards from locals by warlord vote organizers.
  • Manufacture and sale of many thousands of fake registration cards.

What steps have been taken to prevent these sorts of violations of the process from recurring? I’ve not seen a single indication that the systemic factors that allowed and rewarded election fraud have been addressed. Not one. Have you?

In this context, it’s understandable that Nagl and Co. would want to wave their hands and assert that counterinsurgency can work when host-nation elections break, but that’s contemptible, dishonest, face-saving bull. Sarah Sewall’s introduction in the COIN manual calls host-nation government legitimacy a “north star.” The main text of the manual defines victory flatly as the moment when “the populace consents to the government’s legitimacy and stops actively and passively supporting the insurgency.” And Nagl’s backpedaling in the L.A. Times’ opinion section aside, it’s clear throughout the manual he helped write that he wasn’t talking about the local mayor: he was talking about the host-nation government. And there’s not a single possible outcome now for the ’09 Afghan elections that leaves us with a credible, legitimate partner. What we’ll get is a regime staffed with former warlords, human rights abusers and drug lords, headed by Mr. 32.2 Percent, Mr. 12.8 Percent, or both. Take your pick.

I can’t prove it, but the willingness of the pro-COIN crowd to fudge their own doctrine’s prerequisites for success and definitions of victory makes me suspect the American people have been the victims of what’s essentially an intra-military turf battle, with the Petreauses and the Nagls and the McChrystals of the world (all Army men) fighting to return the infantry to primacy in a world of stealth bombers and killer drones. The Army’s doctrinal weapon in that fight, COIN, seems to have fit perfectly with the Bushies’ PNAC-sponsored imperial eschatology, paving the way for a civilian/military public relations campaign to make infantry-heavy pacification campaigns the new, sexy way of war. Congrats on the snow job, gentlemen.

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Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit http://rethinkafghanistan.com/blog.

According to the New York Times and CNN, Senator John Kerry and U.S. Ambassador Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry have prevailed upon Afghan President Hamid Karzai to concede that he did not win 50 percent in the initial presidential vote, which would pave the way for a runoff. (In fact, about a quarter of the votes counted in the initial balloting were fraudulent, and a third of Karzai’s were bogus.)

But that’s where things get tricky: the law (you know, the law that remains after Karzai stayed in the presidency long after the Afghan constitution required him to vacate) requires the runoff be held within two weeks of the certification of the election results. However, the reason Karzai purportedly had to stay in office beyond his constitutional term in the first place was the inability of Afghan officials to set up an election process within the security situation in the time allotted, and it’s not exactly gotten easier to do so in the interim. It will be extremely difficult to set up a runoff in two weeks, and many have indicated that they would not participate in a runoff after risking their lives defying the Taliban the first time. And, the longer this drags out, the closer we get to winter, which would shut down any possibility of a nationwide election.

Here’s what Abdullah had to say:

Abdullah told CNN on Monday he was prepared to participate in a runoff, but said “the door is open” to other alternatives.

“There are some practical questions ahead,” Abdullah told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, citing winter, the security situation “and other realities on the ground.”

If the election were not held by early November, winter weather would make voting impossible in some areas and force a delay until spring of 2010, according to Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States, Said Jawad.

Such a delay, he warned, would be a “recipe for disaster” that would create confusion in Afghanistan and heighten tension between the United States and Karzai’s government.

The solution proffered by the Obama administration is to have Abdullah concede the runoff as soon as it’s announced in exchange for the placement of some of his key supporters in positions in a sort of unity government. For his part, Abdullah seems to be telegraphing his willingness to do so, something in which he previously indicated no interest. Abdullah’s switch on this could be  a way out of the potential constitutional death spiral I wrote about several weeks ago, but that’s only if this goes down in the best of all possible ways. If Abdullah balks, then the runoff must proceed, tentatively scheduled for November 7th. Steve Hynd’s post describes the difficulties of that scenario.

In the best case scenario, we’ll have an Afghan partner* that’s a “unity government” of warlords and drug lords. Good deal. I know I’m excited.

[*Even that generous description of the Afghan contribution to the effort seems to put paid to the notion that we are in a supporting role of a legitimate government fighting off an insurgency. We’re not. And if we’re not, we’re occupying/pacifying, plain and simple.]

Charting a course through the post election tangle, though, does not weed out the bad answers given to basic questions about the ongoing military enterprise in Afghanistan. Today’s STRATFOR’s article makes much the same point I made a few days ago: we can play in the Afghan sandbox all day and not move toward a world without al-Qaida. STRATFOR:

If the strategic objective of the war in Afghanistan is to cut the legs out from under al Qaeda and deny these foreign jihadists sanctuary, then what of the sanctuaries in Pakistan’s tribal belt where high-value al Qaeda targets are believed to be located? Pakistan is fighting its share of jihadists according to its own rules; the United States cannot realistically expect Islamabad to fulfill its end of the bargain in containing al Qaeda. The primary U.S. targets in this war are on the wrong side of the border, and in areas where U.S. forces are not free to operate. The American interest in Afghanistan is to defeat al Qaeda and prevent the emergence of follow-on jihadist forces. The problem is that regardless of how secure Afghanistan is, jihadist forces can (to varying degrees) train and plan in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia — or even Cleveland for that matter. Securing Afghanistan is thus not necessarily a precondition for defeating al Qaeda.

Not only is a hugely expensive COIN effort in Afghanistan not sufficient to defeat al-Qaida, but it’s not even necessary. Thus, an Afghanistan-centric anti-al-Qaida policy is nonsense. It’s worse than useless; the monstrous human and opportunity costs mean it’s actually self-destructive.

As important as the Afghan elections are to the future of that country, getting them right isn’t sufficient to correct the bad assumptions driving the destructive, militarized policy in Afghanistan. It’s time to drop the silly idea that war helps anyone, and charge our policymakers with finding civilian solutions to a political problem. Sign Rethink Afghanistan’s petition for civilian solutions.

Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit http://rethinkafghanistan.com/blog.

The Obama White House is starting to get hip to the internally contradictory suggestions from the John Nagls of the world. From USA TODAY:

As Afghan officials wrangle over their nation’s disputed election, the White House chief of staff said Sunday that President Obama won’t make a decision on sending more troops to Afghanistan until that country has a credible government.

Obama won’t order more U.S. troops to Afghanistan until it forms a legitimate government, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said on CNN‘s State of the Union.

Emanuel said that it would be “reckless to make a decision on U.S. troop levels” without a thorough analysis of Afghanistan’s ability to govern itself.

John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Afghanistan must prove to be a legitimate partner in the war against Taliban insurgents before the U.S. sends more troops. “It would be entirely irresponsible for the president of the United States to commit more troops to this country when we don’t even have an election finished and know who the president is and what kind of government we’re working with,” Kerry, D-Mass., told the CNN program during a visit to Kabul.

The post-election process in Afghanistan is teetering on the edge of an abyss right now, with Karzai already long outstaying his constitutional welcome in the presidency. His massive fraud scheme to steal the election on the first round largely exposed to the light of day, he finds himself on the ropes in his country’s own electoral integrity processes, and the supporters of his top opponent have already promised protests “with Kalashnakovs” should Karzai try to steamroll back into the presidency. The U.S. seems to have preferred way out: Karzai concedes that he didn’t win enough to avoid the runoff, and Abdullah would then concede to Karzai in exchange for the placement of some of his supporters in the Karzai administration. Karzai seems to be balking at this notion, and if that’s the case, then the administration’s way out of another troop increase (and, God willing, the U.S. military’s way out of Afghanistan entirely) will have been paved.

I’ve struggled with the wisdom of spending so much time blogging about the war in Afghanistan in the terms of counterinsurgency doctrine, as I find it to be vile lipstick on the pig of endless militaristic interventionism. Situations like this clearly show the utility: sometimes its the contradictions inherent in the pro-war movement arguments that makes an anti-war move more palatable to Democrats too frightened to follow their base into a foreign policy not based on out-hawking the hawks.

Help get the message to the White House and to Congress: sign Rethink Afghanistan’s petition calling for civilian solutions instead of more militarism and war.

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. You can learn more about the dangers posed to U.S. national security by the war in Afghanistan by watching Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six): Security, or by visiting http://rethinkafghanistan.com/blog.

The U.S. is pinwheeling its arms on the edge of a very deep abyss in Afghanistan. In a Nixon-like display of corruption and paranoia, Hamid Karzai and his cronies, who would likely have won a legitimate election, engaged in such widespread vote fraud that Afghanistan likely faces either renewed civil conflict or a constitutional death spiral.  These factors render General Stanley McChrystal’s strategic assessment, which refers to its own “most important component” as “a strong partnership with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) that will build the capacity needed to provide Afghanistan with a stable future,” myopic in the extreme. In this context, a review that includes such useless prescriptions as “Promote a more capable, accountable, and effective government in Afghanistan that serves the Afghan people,” shows how far into fantasy land U.S. “strategic thinking” has strayed.

Simply put, the political is killing us in Afghanistan. The self-inflicted wounds in the political arena we’ve bestowed upon ourselves since 2002 may be irreversible and terminal. One thing is certain: if the president can’t break out out of the imaginary Afghanistan his advisers are creating for him, we are dead, and we won’t be the only ones.

Recall the threat made by Abdullah supporters prior to the election:

Even before the August 20 poll, Abdullah’s supporters were predicting Iran-style protests “with Kalashnikovs” if President Hamid Karzai won in the first round, insisting he could do so only by cheating.

Apparently, this was no idle threat:

The price of Kalashnikovs has doubled in Afghanistan. For a country awash with arms, the fact that the weapons are now fetching $600 apiece is a cause of some surprise, but a surge of demand is to blame for the increase, with a steady stream of weapons said to be heading for the north.

This is the Tajik constituency of Abdullah Abdullah, the presidential candidate who claims the election is being stolen by the incumbent Western-backed President, Hamid Karzai.

Despite international pressure, Abdullah has flatly stated he would not accept a position in a unity government. Instead, he wants a second round vote, and a leaked report from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights shows he’s likely justified in his demands:

The Sunday Times has obtained a report by monitors from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, completed yesterday, which said 1,253,806 votes — 23% of the total counted so far — could be fraudulent.

According to the analysis, if all these votes were cancelled then Abdullah’s share would increase by almost 4 percentage points to 32.03%. Karzai’s share would drop by 6.62 points to 47.48%, triggering a second round. The share of Ramazan Bashardost, the third-placed candidate, would rise to 10.7%.

But the fine print is a killer. Consider the following somber assessment from ICOS:

The Afghan Electoral Law states an election run-off must be held “within 2 weeks after the announcement of the election results”. However, a modified schedule had been organised stipulating a second round in the first days of October. As a result of the Electoral Complaints Commission stipulating recounts and audits, this schedule cannot be maintained and final results may well not be known for several weeks.

If a run-off or revote is necessary, this would not be hampered in the next months by the harsh winter conditions in many areas of northern Afghanistan. This would delay the second round until spring – leaving Afghanistan in a constitutional vacuum for months. There are no provisions in the Afghan Constitution to allow President Karzai to continue in the Presidency in such circumstances.

“This raises the possibility of both a lack of legal authority in the Presidency and resulting political instability and government paralysis dragging on for many months,” said MacDonald. “There are a lot of questions to be asked at the moment and no good answers being offered. Great uncertainties lie ahead.”

So, let’s review:

  • We validated a corrupted loya jirga outcome in 2002 that put thugs, warlords, and drug lords in charge of Afghanistan and that silenced democratic reformers.
  • We put our stamp of approval on a corrupted 2004 election, which further normalized vote fraud in the Afghan “democracy.”
  • The corruption infesting the Afghan government came to full flower in this past month’s election, resulting not only in political unrest, but causing an extended vote verification process that will likely delay a certification of the election beyond the climate’s point of no return for a recount.

Now, there are only two obvious ways forward:

  1. The election commission moves forward with a certification of Karzai’s win, setting off the “protests with Kalashnakovs,” i.e., civil war between the Tajiks and the Pashtuns (welcome back to problem to which the Taliban were the solution).
  2. The election commission declares a runoff that must be delayed until spring to make it possible for the Tajiks to cast their votes. This delay will mean that the constitutional mandate for the Karzai government will expire before the results of the runoff can be certified, which is to say that the government, legally, will cease to exist.

If #1 happens, the counterinsurgents (that’s us) will be put in the position of defending an illegitimate government against patriots rejecting the theft of their government by people largely seen as U.S. stooges. If #2 happens, then counterinsurgency is not possible because the vote fraud which the incumbents participated in triggered a process that annihilated their own legitimacy.

Regardless of whether you think this war is just or unjust; regardless of whether you think COIN was the right strategy; regardless of whether you believed prior to the election that we need more troops or less troops; whether you think 9/11 required a military response or any of a number of alternatives; the United States has poured massive amounts of blood and treasure into giving the Kabul government a chance to take root, and that investment has not been answered by good faith efforts to create a democratic future for the Afghan people. Instead, it’s been answered by actions so base and self-serving on the part of Karzai and his cronies that following the only legal processes for untangling their mess without risking a bloody civil war will drive a legal paradox that revokes their constitutional mandate.

This paradox has one bright, shining meaning: the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan failed democracy’s test. They are not worth one more drop of U.S. blood. They are certainly not worth the accidental killing of one more Afghan civilian on the conscience of troops put in a no-win situation by U.S. policymakers unwilling to read the writing on the wall.

It’s over. It’s done.  Kobayashi Maru. It’s no longer a question of whether Afghanistan is “worth it.” The only question left to answer is, “how much more Hell will we put our young men and women through because we don’t have the political courage to admit the truth, and act?”

The election is on in Afghanistan, which means vote fraud and media censorship are the name of the game today.

IPS News Analyst Gareth Porter yesterday published a story that detailed a massive vote fraud campaign intended to re-elect Hamid Karzai. According to Porter, Karzai’s vote fraud scheme includes:

  • Alliances with warlords, who will deliver votes from their territories for Karzai by hook or by crook. Some have already made threats of reprisal against village elders if they did not cooperate with the vote fraud schemes.
  • Massive registration of underage voters (up to 20 percent of the rolls)
  • Rampant (as in 85-percent occurrence) issuance of multiple voting cards to single individuals, including one case where one person was given about 500 voting cards.
  • Issuance of voting cards to people before they registered.
  • Issuance of cards to women without their physical presence based on lists provided by family (in some provinces this practice was used in 90-99 percent of registration stations).
  • Allowing men to take registration books home for the ostensible purpose of obtaining their women-folk’s fingerprints for registration. This practice, combined with the list practice mentioned above, led to outrageously fraudulent numbers of “women” being issued cards–between double and thirty percent more than the number of cards issued to men. Female Members of Parliament in Afghanistan have called these numbers not credible.
  • Purchase of voting cards from locals by warlord vote organizers.
  • Manufacture and sale of many thousands of fake registration cards.

Oh, by the way…the government body in charge of gathering evidence of vote fraud is comprised of seven members, all appointed by Karzai and led by a chairman who’s a flat-out Karzai partisan.

The Afghan government also barred reporting on violence during today’s election, threatening foreign reporters with expulsion if they break the ban.

Keep all this in mind when the U.S. and Afghan governments break out the Purple Fingers spin.

Ann Jones put together a great piece for The Nation [h/t Tom] that sums up the mess we’ve made for ourselves in relation to this election:

All this–and much more chicanery–leaves the United States in a no-win situation of its own making. We got into it in 2004 by overestimating our ability to put one over on Afghans and Americans alike. And by underestimating Afghans: we expected voter fraud and we ignored it. Even when the percentage of women voters surpassed an inconceivable 70 percent of the total voter registration (in provinces where women are scarcely allowed out of the house), some internationals welcomed the trend. More blatant fraud this time around, and more conspicuous deals, are proof of Afghans’ aptitude for the game we taught them to call “democracy.”

…To ignore history is never a good idea. Remember when US policy embraced Islamic fundamentalists as our natural allies (as a Christian nation) against godless communism? And where are they now?

…It’s too bad about Afghans though. Given half a chance, they’d vote for change and peace and reconciliation and no more soldiers.

And here’s former Afghan MP Malalai Joya:

We Afghans know this election will change nothing. It is merely a show of democracy put on by and for the West, to legitimize its future puppet in Afghanistan.

FYI, if you’re looking for a way to get crowd-sourced news from Afghanistan on today’s election, check out Alive in Afghanistan.

An overnight development shows why the Kabul regime is not worth another drop of American blood, and why the elections later this week will be far from the democratic triumph presented by U.S. officials. Drug kingpin and war criminal General Abdul Rashid Dostum is back in Afghanistan, working to help re-elect President Hamid Karzai.

KABUL — A notorious Afghan warlord accused of allowing the murder of hundreds, if not thousands, of prisoners and then destroying the evidence returned to Afghanistan Sunday night as part of what appears to be a political deal brokered with President Hamid Karzai.

Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum arrived from Turkey just four days before the Afghan presidential elections, in which his support could be key to Karzai’s chances of securing more than 50 percent of the vote – the threshold for avoiding a second round of elections.

Karzai has come under criticism for consolidating his position by striking deals with warlords like Dostum and those suspected of connections to the country’s opium trade.

Dostum, you may recall, is responsible for a 2001 massacre in which he and his men stuffed thousands of prisoners into metal containers, suffocating most and then shooting at close range those who survived. Physicians for Human Rights uncovered the massacre and Dostum’s attempt to cover it up, a cover-up aided by the U.S. government (Dostum was a CIA asset at the time). He is the worst sort of war criminal, and an opium kingpin at that. And yet, he’s held senior positions in the government on whose behalf U.S. troops are killing and dying, and he’s only one example of a wide swath of the Afghan government populated by warlords and drug traffickers.

The general’s return raises the question of why we haven’t (and possibly won’t ever) touch him for the war crime he committed in 2001. Two reasons present themselves:

  1. Karzai is relying on him to “deliver” (buy? coerce?) a million votes to avoid a runoff vote.
  2. Dostum was a CIA asset at the time of the 2001 massacre.

Dostum’s return to a warm embrace by the U.S.-backed government in Kabul shows us that:

Here’s a very short video on the rise of warlords and drug kingpins into senior positions in the Kabul regime, using clips from Rethink Afghanistan:

The Afghan government is not worth one more drop of American blood. The Bush-era idea that terrorism is a problem to be dealt with through invasion and occupation of foreign lands has led us down a path that ends with our morally culpability for the behavior of a narco-state flush with cash from the opium trade and U.S. taxpayer dollars.

The Beltway debate about whether to add more troops is akin to the WW-II Japanese generals asking “Should we attack Pearl Harbor on November 13 or December 1?” The real question was whether they should have attacked at all. Similarly, the question is not whether we need more troops in Afghanistan. The question is whether we should have invaded and occupied Afghanistan in response to 9/11 and whether that occupation and military action should continue. The answer is no, and we should get our troops out of there, now.

The U.S. government wants your sons and daughters to kill and be killed for this:

Hamid Karzai signs law ‘legalising rape in marriage’

President Hamid Karzai has signed a law the UN says legalises rape in marriage and prevents women from leaving the house without permission.

Let’s not pretend that the war in Afghanistan is a battle between progressive, enlightened factions that care about women and those who want to subjugate them. We’re backing these guys.

Rule of the Rapists, indeed.

Get us out of Afghanistan now.