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.

May 05, 2016
David L. Glotzer
Welcome to Fortified Europe: the Militarization of Europe’s Borders
Adam Szetela
Beyoncé’s “Formation” and the Boutique Activism of the Left
Bruce Lerro
Lost at Sea: Left Liberals Have No Party
Paul Cochrane
Hot Air in the Saudi Desert: a Kingdom in Descent?
Brian Terrell
My Visit to a Las Vegas Jail
Judith Deutsch
The Military’s “Securitization” of Climate Change
Phyllis Bennis
Kunduz Bombing: Proof the Pentagon Should Not Be Allowed to Investigate Itself for War Crimes
Chad Nelson
When Compassion is Terrorism: Animal Rights in a Post-911 World
Dan Arel
Making Sanders’ Dream a Reality Through Political Activism
Kent Paterson
Ten Years Later: Reflections on the Legacies of Immigrant Spring
Serge Halimi
Why Firefighters are Against Free Trade
Andrew Stewart
Green Bernie or Green Party Machine?
Binoy Kampmark
Yuri Gagarin in Space: the Politics of Cosmic Discovery
Hayes Rowan
This Naming of Things
May 04, 2016
Kshama Sawant
It’s Not About Bernie: Why We Can’t Let Our Revolution Die in Philadelphia
Conn Hallinan
Baiting the Bear: Russia and NATO
Joshua Frank
Hanford’s Leaky Nuke Tanks and Sick Workers, A Never-Ending Saga
Paul Craig Roberts
TIPP: Advancing American Imperialism
Ted Rall
Hillary to Bernie Supporters: Don’t Vote for Me!
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton and Wall Street’s Neoliberal War on Latin America
Leslie Scott
The Story of Jill Stein: Putting People, Peace and the Planet Before Profits
Ann Garrison
Building the Greens Into a Mass Party: Interview with Bruce Dixon
Tom Clifford
Crying Rape: Trump’s China-Bashing
Lawrence Davidson
Getting Rid of Bad Examples: Andrew Jackson & Woodrow Wilson
Ellen Brown
Bank of North Dakota Soars Despite Oil Bust: A Blueprint for California?
Nelson Valdes
Is Fidel Castro Outside or Part of Mainstream Thinking? A Selection of Quotes
Jesse Jackson
Don’t Send Flint Down the Drain: Fix It!
Nathan Riley
Help Bernie Keep His Halo
Rivera Sun
Remembering Nonviolent History: Freedom Rides
Clancy Sigal
Rachel and the Isolationists: How Maddow Blew It
Laura Finley
Changing the Conversation About “The Woman Card”
CJ Hopkins
Coming this Summer … Revenge of the Bride of Sophie’s Choice
May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail