Tuesday, August 25, 2009

They just don't learn

From the NYT:
President Hamid Karzai seems poised to declare an overwhelming victory in Afghanistan’s hotly contested presidential election, even as allegations of fraud by his main opponent threaten to undermine the credibility of the vote.

The president’s finance minister, Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, claimed Monday that Mr. Karzai had garnered 68 percent of ballots in Thursday’s election, quoting figures from election officials that he said had been provided to the cabinet.Such a showing would make a second round of voting unnecessary.
Apparently, they imported vote-counters from Iran.

How dumb do they think we are? How dumb do they think the Afghan people--that is, the ones who haven't written off the government entirely--are?

Just yesterday we heard reports that the western military commanders in Afghanistan are preparing to ask for more troops. As regular readers will recall, this page has long supported the Afghan war as necessary or at least justified. But in the end, as everyone recognizes, the Taliban and their terrorist allies (which allies are the reason we are in this, and the only justification for putting American and other NATO troops in among the warring parties) can only be defeated by the Afghans. If the Afghan people do not reject the Taliban, the country will only be a graveyard for foreign troops.

And it should go without saying that the only way that the people of Afghanistan will back the central government is if it presents something worth supporting. That means, as a first step. making serious inroads on corruption, cronyism and incompetence.

Apparently, there is no appetite for serious reform in the Afghan government. It's time for the US to tell Karzai (whom I welcomed early in his term) some home truths: that if he and those around him are not going to get on the stick and put the welfare of the nation above their own fortunes, the US will leave him and his cronies to their just desserts. As a first step in that lesson, no more troops until government improves.

Update: According to AP, fragmentary official returns give Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah (the former foreign minister) about 40% each. Returns are to be reported over the next few days.

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