16 August 2009

The Afghanistan presidential election

There's a very interesting article at Asia Times today suggesting that Hamid Karzai may fall from power, and that the United States may be supporting his opponent.
[T]he presidential election in Afghanistan on August 20 has assumed immense significance for the geopolitics of the region.

But the election, whose result was considered a foregone conclusion, has become a cliffhanger. President Hamid Karzai faces an existential threat from no one other than his erstwhile mentors in Washington, as his campaign seeking re-election enters the final week.

The US is waging a rearguard battle of attrition to ensure Karzai somehow falls short of securing an outright victory in the first round, which would necessitate a run-off. The latest barrage against Karzai is the sensational report by Germany's Stern magazine that British special forces seized "tons" of opium from the compound of his half-brother…

A painless "regime change" devolves on Karzai's lackluster performance in the first round of the election. The systematic "degradation" of Karzai's political record has eroded his standing. A US-funded opinion poll found Karzai would poll only 36% of votes, which is way below the 50% mark for an outright victory…

Simultaneously, the vicious media attack on Karzai continues. Elizabeth Rubin of The New York Times magazine quoted a Western intelligence official as saying, "The Karzai family has opium and blood on their hands ... When history analyses this period and looks at this family, it will uncover a litany of extensive corruption that was tolerated because the West tolerated this family."

Anthony Cordesman… wrote in the Times newspaper that Karzai's government is "corrupt, grossly over-centralized, lacking in capacity and virtually absent in large parts of Afghanistan"…

David Kilcullen… said Karzai reminded him of the South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem who was murdered and removed from power in Saigon in 1963 in a US-backed military coup during the John F Kennedy administration…

What is quite apparent already is that the US's preferred candidates in the Afghan election arena are the former World Bank official and finance minister Ashraf Ghani and the former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah

The American estimation is that if Karzai is forced into a runoff, anti-Karzai votes would coalesce, especially in a runoff facing Abdullah. The US government-funded media organizations have begun building up Abdullah…
The author of the piece, M K Bhadrakumar, is a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service.

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