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Afghan Elections A Bust, Obama Opts To Stay The Course

Posted by on September 25th, 2010

From our partners at

By Steve Hynd

The Afghan parliamentary election, the very thing the Surge ™ was supposed to protect and ensure more fairness in by allowing more monitoring, is a complete bust.

Turnout cratered, violence was actually higher than the presidential election last year which had set a nine-year record for bloodshed – not down, as ISAF had originally said – and fraud is so widespread that it makes a mockery of the electoral process

The complaints to provincial election commissions have so far included video clips showing ballot stuffing; the strong-arming of election officials by candidates’ agents; and even the handcuffing and detention of election workers.

In some places, election officials themselves are alleged to have carried out the fraud; in others, government employees did, witnesses said. One video showed election officials and a candidate’s representatives haggling over the price of votes.

…“From an overall democracy-building perspective it does not look rosy,” said one diplomat who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.

The widespread tampering and bare-knuckle tactics of some candidates raised serious questions about the effort to build a credible government that can draw the support of Afghans and the Obama administration and its NATO partners as they re-evaluate their commitment to the war.

American and international diplomats kept their distance from the tide of candidate complaints this week, and NATO and American Embassy officials said little other than that the election was an Afghan process and that it was the Afghans who were responsible for its outcome.

But a less than credible parliamentary election, following last year’s tarnished presidential vote, would place international forces in the increasingly awkward position of defending a government of waning legitimacy, and diplomats acknowledged that it could undermine efforts to persuade countries to maintain their financing and troop levels.

The Election Complaints Commission said Thursday that it had received more than 3,000 complaints since last Saturday’s election. So far they have registered case files on nearly 1,800 of those complaints — 58 percent of which were considered serious enough to affect the outcome of the balloting. That may change in the course of investigations but that preliminary figure is high, election monitors said.

The complaints are not evenly distributed and were markedly worse in 13 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. In those 13, at least half the complaints were deemed to be high priority — forecasting bitter fights over the outcome.

In addition, complaints in four provinces — Kandahar, Nuristan, Zabul and Paktika — have yet to be categorized, but fraud is expected to be extensive and has already been widely reported.

In the absence of any legitimate Afghan organs of government, local or national, the US is trying to rent legitimacy, spreading money around by the truckload on projects that more often than not just line the pockets of corrupt, elite powerbrokers and create a culture of dependency. However, the military and the Obama administration seem to have lost sight of what according to Petraeus' own manual is a key precept of counter-insurgency operations: as Col. David Maxwell puts it "when the US takes the lead and pushes the host nation to a secondary role in its own country then the US takes on the role of occupier. They are conducting “pacification operations”.

COIN has been popular among the military and neoliberal interventionist policymakers because it seemed to be the "fix" for two stalled occupations. But that popularity willfully ignores the unpleasant truth that such a fix is impossible when the U.S. is an occupying power bereft of a legitimate and sovereign host government. COIN as currently understood by the powers-that-be in America is inevitably a colonial adventure. It's the great unspoken truth of COIN the Mystery Religion that, nine years in, a counterinsurgency campaign is still fifteen years and well over $1 trillion from seeing any light at the end of the tunnel – if it ever does.

Yet, undettered, Obama has thrown in his lot with Petraeus and the counterinsurgents. If there ever was a backbone in the White House it seems it has now been lost.

President Barack Obama says U.S. troops will stay in Afghanistan "until the job is done."

The president made the comment in an interview Friday with BBC Persian Television, which reaches Persian-speaking audiences in Afghanistan, Iran and elsewhere.

As he has in the past, Obama emphasized that a July 2011 date to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan does not mean the end of America's commitment to that country.

Obama said that the job in Afghanistan is "to provide Afghans themselves the capacity to secure their own country."

Sounds utterly Bush-like to me. If he'd simply said the US would "stay the course" it would be a perfect echo.

Fifteen more years of playing "whack-a-mole" while the amazing, disappearing Afghan security forces stand up only long enough to desert. Yep, that'll break the bank, break the Army and break the country.

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