Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Afghanistan: US Can't Win For Losing

WELL, THE USA GOT THEIR CONCESSION from Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's wheeling-dealing, ballot-stuffing president. He has accepted a run-off election to happen on November 7, which means, at least implicitly, he has accepted the accusations that he and his kith and kin ran a less than clean election. But what's good for the goose is good for the gander and since the USA was happy enough to have GW Bush steal his first election, what's wrong with some guy in Afghanistan - a place that most Americans couldn't find on a map? So, everybody's happy right? As Stephen Harper put it:

"While the first round of elections was not without controversy, it is important to remember how far Afghanistan has come since the fall of the Taliban regime. Our goal in Afghanistan is to help Afghans rebuild their country as a stable, democratic and self-sufficient society. Canada continues to lend our support."
Absolutely right, Stephen. Since the fall of the Taliban more civilians have died than during their reign. That surely is an accomplishment. And we've replaced sexist tyrants with... sexist tyrants and drug lords (it's called diversifying your base of support). And we've helped solve the Afghan refugee problem in neighbouring countries: Iran and Pakistan have been expelling them in large numbers.
But still, somehow, the US can't seem to get it right. Already, Karzai's opponent in any runoff, the suspected war criminal, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, has said that he may boycott the second round. So much for granting legitimacy to the election. And, anyway, if Karzai wins, there's a good chance that forcing him to accept the American diktat for a second round may have fatally weakened him politically.

"The Americans didn't seem to care it was unprecedented for a Popolzai chief to be made to admit defeat in front of his people."
So much for maintaining a strong leader to keep the weak Afghan state together. In fact, John Kerry - the formerly anti-war vet who is now stumping to send a new generation of working class kids to die in foreign lands - was in Afghanistan to both pressure Karzai to back down and to push for the Afghanization of the conflict. He didn't seem to realize that these two things are fundamentally in conflict. As noted in an editorial by M.K. Bhadrakumar in the Asia Times Online:

"Whether Karzai was efficient or corrupt is no more the issue. The issue is the perception that Westerners use their friends like condoms - to be discarded after use...This will have implications for the much-touted "Afghanization" strategy."
There are meanwhile reports of demonstrations in Kabul and beyond over allegations that American troops burned copies of the Koran during operations in Wardak province. This comes after 14 US troops died in one day, the largest single daily casualty count since the US occupied the country. Even more worrying, Asia Times Online reported that the Afghan province of Nuristan has fallen to insurgents after the withdrawal of American troops, as part of their strategy to only hold major urban centres.
It seems that things are going from bad to worse for the US and their NATO allies - including Canada. They could have asked the Soviets the price of trying to occupy a country that has defeated more empires than any other.
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