Foreign affairs Minister Stephen Smith claimed the elections in Afghanistan would be “an important step for Afghanistan’s developing democracy”. Instead they have seen the credibility of the US-led occupation completely collapse after Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah pulled out of a planned run-off election on November 7.
The run-off only became necessary after massive election fraud perpetrated by incumbent president Harmid Karzai and his cronies was discovered by election observers. In some districts hundreds of thousands of fraudulent votes were stuffed into ballot boxes. After those votes were disallowed Karzai’s vote went below 50 per cent meaning there had to be a second round runoff with Abdullah who received 30.5 per cent.
But then Karzai’s election officials announced plans to increase the number of polling stations for the second round of voting by 155 to 6322. Monitors had indicated many polling places used in the initial election should be closed, after concerns that “ghost” sites had been used to stuff ballot boxes. A number of polling places in the first round were never opened to the public or election monitors, yet sent votes back for tallying.
Abdullah had called for 500 polling places to be shut.
Abdullah had also demanded that Zizullah Ludin be removed as the Independent Electoral Comission’s (IEC) chief officer in Afghanistan for the run-off. In a media conference before the August 20 election Ludin told Karzai, “I have got your back”, and is widely suspected of playing a role in the vote rigging.
Abdullah Abdullah, who has long been associated with the Northern Alliance and was once deputy foreign minister, had been in talks about a power-sharing deal with Karzai. After pulling out of the election he declared he had “absolutely no interest” in continuing to pursue such a deal. But a power-sharing arrangement would be the best outcome for the occupation, and would avoid sections of the already brittle ruling elite potentially switching sides to back the resistance, by giving them a stake in the government. US officials are continuing to press Karzai to agree to such a deal.
This follows the sacking of UN deputy chief in Afghanistan Peter Galbraith for speaking publicly about the fraudulent elections. He said of the IEC that “Despite its name, the commission is subservient to Karzai, who appointed its seven members.” And at “critical stages in the election process, I was similarly ordered not to pursue the issue of fraud.”
Many warnings of potential fraud in Afghanistan by both the UN and Afghan election workers were ignored by both UN officials and the occupation powers. It seems that having a friendly government in Afghanistan was more important that the “democracy” and “liberation” promised by Obama and Rudd. Galbraith goes on to say the fraudulent elections were “the biggest strategic victory for the Taliban since the occupation began”.
In the aftermath of the cancellation of the election, Obama has pressed Karzai to rein in rampant corruption. Yet it was recently revealed in the New York Times that the president’s drug-kingpin brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, who is routinely denounced by US Government officials, is actually a long-term paid agent of the CIA.
Insurgents gain in strength
Before the elections the insurgency was already on the offensive. Recent actions of the occupying forces and their puppets will boost their numbers and support even more.
On October 3, US Combat Outpost Keating was completely overrun by insurgent fighters, and eight US soldiers killed, the largest number in a single engagement in the whole nine years of the occupation. The US then withdrew from Nuristan, the province where the outpost was located, in late October. With only a handful of soldiers in Nuristan’s capital, Parun, the province is effectively being run by the resistance. The recent run of propaganda victories for the resistance will likely translate into more and bigger military victories as the occupation drags on.
As Obama continues to deliberate over strategy for Afghanistan one thing is clear—the US cannot afford to lose in Afghanistan. The strategic importance of Afghanistan as a political crossroads between Europe, Asia and the Middle East is becoming increasingly important in a multi-polar world, as is its proximity to the resource rich Central Asian region.
Despite not committing to General McChrystal’s plan for a “super surge” of 40,000 troops, it is very likely Obama will increase the number of troops thus committing the Afghan people to more years of misery.
By Robert Nicholas