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
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism:  Transcending the Masters tools
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Chuck Collins
Wall Street Hopes You’ve Forgotten the Crash Already
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Robert Koehler
Costa Rica’s Peace Journey
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
February 23, 2017
Dave Brotherton
Trump, Moral Panics and Resistance
Jonathan Cook
One State: Trump Has Reminded Palestinians What It Was Always About
Bill Quigley
Ten Examples of Direct Resistance to Stop Government Raids
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigot Boy Business: Trump Exposes His Ignorance and Intolerance, Again
John W. Whitehead
The Illusion of Freedom: the Police State Is Alive and Well
Ralph Nader
Restricting People’s Use of Their Courts
David Macaray
Women As Labor Union Organizers
Kathy Kelly
Friendship in Defiance of War
Doug Weir
Why Did the US Use Depleted Uranium Weapons in Syria?
Steve Horn
Former GOP Congressional Staffer Follows Revolving Door, Now Latest Keystone XL Lobbyist
Binoy Kampmark
From Rights to Repentance: Norma McCorvey and Roe v Wade
Thomas Knapp
The Target of the “Border Adjustment Tax” is You
Chris Zinda
Open Letter to Neoliberal Environmentalists
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail