Connect to share and comment

A hidden denial in the Afghan election

U.S. missteps in Afghanistan stretch back to the Bush administration's decision to court the warlords.

Soldiers from the U.S. Army's Alpha Company, 3rd brigade of 10th Mountain Division based in Fort Drum, New York, prepare for an overnight protection of a convoy at the mountain road connecting Altimur and Kerwar in Logar Province, Sept. 29, 2009. (Nikola Solic/Reuters)

The Afghan election results are finally in and, to no one's surprise, they have inflamed a crisis of credibility. Afghanistan’s latest effort in democracy was marred by widespread fraud, violence, and intimidation.

The U.N.-backed Independent Election Commission awarded President Hamid Karzai 54.6 percent of the vote, putting him over the critical 50 percent necessary to secure victory without a runoff. But with a third of Karzai’s 3.1 million votes facing an audit there is little chance the final decision will avoid a long and painful runoff election.

It is the worst of all possible outcomes and a staggering blow to President Obama’s Af-Pak war strategy. Experts estimate it will take the U.S. at least 12 to 18 months for signs of progress to show. Now, half of that time will be spent under a cloud of illegitimacy even if Karzai wins reelection. 

It wasn’t supposed to be this way, but according to an Afghan human rights expert, Sima Wali, who represented King Zahir Shah at the Bonn conference in 2001, the process of building a new Afghanistan was doomed from the beginning. “During the debates establishing the post-Taliban government of Afghanistan in 2001, Islamist principles that had never been considered Afghan and were never a part of previous Afghan constitutions were infused into the new constitution. Many in leadership positions in the current government of Afghanistan also subscribe to extremist ideologies of the Islamic kind that were never part of Afghan politics.”

According to Afghanistan expert David B. Edwards, the extremist, anti-modernist ideologies of the Taliban and the seven major Peshawar mujahideen organizations were known to be as alien to Afghanistan’s traditional ideas of governance as anything introduced by foreign colonial powers.

From the founding of the modern Afghan state in the 1880s under Amir Abdur Rahman Khan to the period of Amir Amanullah Khan in the 1920s to the Marxist coup of 1978, Afghan politics exhibited a determination to both modernize and moderate Afghan society.

From David B. Edwards' book, "Before Taliban": "Abdur Rahman nevertheless forged the basis of governance in Afghanistan and the understandings that people have retained of the natural and proper duties, role and comportment of its leaders. Amanullah provides an illuminating secondary point of reference for this analysis because he anticipated many of the reforms that the Marxists would later try to put in place."

In addition to placing former Taliban madrassa students in positions of authority, the decision by the administration of George W. Bush to bring warlords into the tribal Loya Jirga that established the new government, had an irreversible effect.