FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Elections in Afghanistan, the Second Time Around

by BRIAN M. DOWNING

It is a testament to the strength of our commitment to democracy that we Americans believe elections will solve the problems of a country – any country. This is a nice civics lesson but the lessons of history are otherwise. And it is not a sound principle of foreign policy. Elections in Afghanistan are unlikely to solve the country’s problems; they may even worsen things. In any event, other political processes are more important – we just haven’t realized it yet.

President Hamid Karzai,amid numerous allegations of fraud in August’s elections, has accepted a second-round runoff with Abdullah Abdullah. Domestic pressure for a second round was significant but it was pressure from the US and western bodies that forced Karzai to accede. Coming amid the Obama administration’s debate on sending more troops, one might suspect a deal: Karzai sits for a second election in exchange for more US troops. Any such deal would be a bad one. Escalation should be assessed on its own merits, not on short-term gain. Furthermore, a deal paves the way for more deals: additional troop increases in exchange for what the Afghan government should be doing anyway – acting responsibly.

The runoff between Karzai and his principal opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, will not change anything in regard to the state’s efficacy. The winner will preside over a ramshackle apparatus fraught with corrupt and inept functionaries seeking to pull in as much money as they can while western troops are holding up their political system. The winner will not be in a better position to bargain with various tribes and people, build a fairer administrative system, and otherwise counter the rising influence of insurgent groups.

Many Afghans, even those who think little of Karzai, see the second round as the result of foreign meddling. Though this might elicit some sympathy for Karzai as he protests western interference, a stronger opposite response will weaken him. Anti-western sentiment will increase, as will already strong beliefs that the West is working to bring about Northern/Tajik control of the country. Insurgents have long played upon such beliefs, and their support in the South and East will rise.

A Karzai defeat in the runoff is unlikely though not impossible. A non-Pashtun turnout elevated by the prospect of unseating Karzai and a Pashtun turnout suppressed by insurgent threats, cynicism, and winter weather could give Abdullah the presidency. This might be welcomed in the West, but not in Afghanistan. Though of Pashtun and Tajik parents, Abdullah, by virtue of his prominence in the Northern Alliance and the Jamiat-i Islami party, is considered a Tajik – unacceptable to most Pashtuns. His election would galvanize Pashtun fears of a northern conspiracy and push the country toward a north-south conflict. Pakistan will share those conspiratorial views. It will detect the sinister hand of India’s intelligence wing and respond accordingly – in and out of Afghanistan.

The runoff election is unlikely to bring significant benefits to Afghanistan or the western effort there. It will only underscore the frailty, if not the almost uselessness, of the political framework hurriedly set up by politicians and consultants after the Taliban fled in 2001.

There is another political framework, one that Karzai has failed to deal competently with, one the West has only recently begun to appreciate – tribal parley. Significant political developments are already well under way through tribal parley, which builds consensus through dispute resolution, nationalist appeals, and suppression of warlordism. Thus far, in the contest of building consensus through tribal parley, the Taliban have a commanding lead.

BRIAN M. DOWNING is the author of several works of political and military history, including The Military Revolution and Political Change and The Paths of Glory: War and Social Change in America from the Great War to Vietnam. He can be reached at: brianmdowning@gmail.com

 

 

Brian M Downing is a political-military analyst, author of The Military Revolution and Political Change and The Paths of Glory: Social Change in America from the Great War to Vietnam, and co-author with Danny Rittman of The Samson Heuristic. He can be reached at brianmdowning@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious madness in Ulster
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
January 19, 2017
Melvin Goodman
America’s Russian Problem
Dave Lindorff
Right a Terrible Wrong: Why Obama Should Reverse Himself and Pardon Leonard Peltier
Laura Carlsen
Bringing Mexico to Its Knees Will Not “Make America Great Again”
John W. Whitehead
Nothing is Real: When Reality TV Programming Masquerades as Politics
Yoav Litvin
Time to Diss Obey: the Failure of Identity Politics and Protest
Mike Whitney
The Trump Speech That No One Heard 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail