Speculation on Whether Abdullah will Join National Unity Government; MPs call for US withdrawal

Matthew Green of the FT, reporting from Kabul, suggests that Abdullah Abdullah may still be open to a post in Hamid Karzai’s cabinet. That outcome is not impossible given Afghanistan’s mercurial politics. But it seems to me unlikely, since Abdullah is accusing his rival in the country’s presidential contest, Hamid Karzai, of having attempted to steal the Aug. 20 election, and of running interference for corrupt members of the electoral commission. The reason Abdullah gave for pulling out of the race, that the elections were not going to be conducted transparently, is more of a thunderous condemnation than a coy offering of himself as a cabinet member. Still, Euronews also notes that Abdullah has not ruled out playing a role in a national unity government.

Aljazeera English reports on Abdullah’s withdrawal from the presidential race.

Abdullah’s withdrawal is not good news for the Obama administration, as I said yesterday, if they are planning a long-term, nation-building, counter-insurgency campaign. But for a targeted, small counter-terrorism campaign, the shape of the indigenous government is less important.

The fact is that Karzai was likely to win all along. That his government’s legitimacy has been wounded is bad for Washington. But Karzai never built the kind of power base that Nuri al-Maliki assembled in Iraq. Karzai only controls 30% of the country, while the Taliban and other anti-government guerrillas have altogether about 10-15%. Most of the country is under regional tribal leaders and warlords, who have not actively taken up arms against either Kabul or the foreign troops, but who do not want to be dominated by either.

Aljazeera English reports that the Afghan government wants to go forward with the election on Nov. 7, while the international community feels it would be dangerous and irresponsible to hold the elections when their outcome is a foregone conclusion.

The discussions about US troop force levels in Afghanistan takes place in the White House, the Pentagon, and the US Congress. But shouldn’t the elected Afghanistan parliament have a say? It was after all the Iraqi parliament that asserted itself in insisting that the Status of Forces Agreement contain a timetable for US withdrawal.

And what would the Afghan parliament say if it was given a say? It would be hard to know from reading the American press. But Azadi Radio in Dari Persian has an article on some of the debate among Afghan parliamentarians. Senator [Mahmood] Rashid [the article mistakenly gives his name as Ahmad] says that more US troops will actually make things in the country worse. He points out that many of the Taliban say that what motivates them to fight is the task of pushing foreign troops out of their country. Sending in a lot more US troops would therefore just stiffen the resistance.

Pir Sayyid Ibrahim Gailani said much the same thing. But he added that the next president of Afghanistan must take parliament’s views into account, and should call a conference of parliamentarians with Taliban and the Hizb-i Islami (of Gulbadin Hikmatyar) to settle the outstanding issues by negotiation instead of by sending in foreign troops.

The biographies of Rashid and Gailani can be found here. Both Rashid and Gailani had been associated with the Mujahidin or anti-Soviet guerrilla fighters, in fact Gailani had been a commander in Paktia in the 1980s. Both senators, in other words, know a great deal about the dynamics of Afghan tribes with foreign troops. Their voices should be heard in this debate. Indeed, Gailani’s insistence that parliament be brought into the task of finding a negotiated settlement with some of the guerrilla forces may be crucial.

See also Tom Engelhardt on Afghanistan as a bail-out state.

End/ (Not Continued)

Speculation on Whether Abdullah will Join National Unity Government; MPs call for US withdrawal

Matthew Green of the FT, reporting from Kabul, suggests that Abdullah Abdullah may still be open to a post in Hamid Karzai’s cabinet. That outcome is not impossible given Afghanistan’s mercurial politics. But it seems to me unlikely, since Abdullah is accusing his rival in the country’s presidential contest, Hamid Karzai, of having attempted to steal the Aug. 20 election, and of running interference for corrupt members of the electoral commission. The reason Abdullah gave for pulling out of the race, that the elections were not going to be conducted transparently, is more of a thunderous condemnation than a coy offering of himself as a cabinet member. Still, Euronews also notes that Abdullah has not ruled out playing a role in a national unity government.

Aljazeera English reports on Abdullah’s withdrawal from the presidential race.

Abdullah’s withdrawal is not good news for the Obama administration, as I said yesterday, if they are planning a long-term, nation-building, counter-insurgency campaign. But for a targeted, small counter-terrorism campaign, the shape of the indigenous government is less important.

The fact is that Karzai was likely to win all along. That his government’s legitimacy has been wounded is bad for Washington. But Karzai never built the kind of power base that Nuri al-Maliki assembled in Iraq. Karzai only controls 30% of the country, while the Taliban and other anti-government guerrillas have altogether about 10-15%. Most of the country is under regional tribal leaders and warlords, who have not actively taken up arms against either Kabul or the foreign troops, but who do not want to be dominated by either.

Aljazeera English reports that the Afghan government wants to go forward with the election on Nov. 7, while the international community feels it would be dangerous and irresponsible to hold the elections when their outcome is a foregone conclusion.

The discussions about US troop force levels in Afghanistan takes place in the White House, the Pentagon, and the US Congress. But shouldn’t the elected Afghanistan parliament have a say? It was after all the Iraqi parliament that asserted itself in insisting that the Status of Forces Agreement contain a timetable for US withdrawal.

And what would the Afghan parliament say if it was given a say? It would be hard to know from reading the American press. But Azadi Radio in Dari Persian has an article on some of the debate among Afghan parliamentarians. Senator [Mahmood] Rashid [the article mistakenly gives his name as Ahmad] says that more US troops will actually make things in the country worse. He points out that many of the Taliban say that what motivates them to fight is the task of pushing foreign troops out of their country. Sending in a lot more US troops would therefore just stiffen the resistance.

Pir Sayyid Ibrahim Gailani said much the same thing. But he added that the next president of Afghanistan must take parliament’s views into account, and should call a conference of parliamentarians with Taliban and the Hizb-i Islami (of Gulbadin Hikmatyar) to settle the outstanding issues by negotiation instead of by sending in foreign troops.

The biographies of Rashid and Gailani can be found here. Both Rashid and Gailani had been associated with the Mujahidin or anti-Soviet guerrilla fighters, in fact Gailani had been a commander in Paktia in the 1980s. Both senators, in other words, know a great deal about the dynamics of Afghan tribes with foreign troops. Their voices should be heard in this debate. Indeed, Gailani’s insistence that parliament be brought into the task of finding a negotiated settlement with some of the guerrilla forces may be crucial.

See also Tom Engelhardt on Afghanistan as a bail-out state.

End/ (Not Continued)

5 Responses

  1. Great news report from the Dari press. That's the kind of thing we can't get anywhere else, and those 2 short paragraphs give a whole new way of thinking about things.

  2. Sri Bhadrakumar provides a fresh look at Karzai's election and other Afghan events:

    "President Hamid Karzai has also shown the door to Abdullah's Western sponsors. They had approached in hopes of gaining a last-minute 'deal' that would see Abdullah, their protege, gain some position in the future administration…..

    "The latest broadside in the New York Times, portraying his brother, Wali Karzai, as a drug trafficker, has taken matters to a point of no return. American officials who spoke out of turn have done colossal damage to US interests in Afghanistan. It was probably meant as a desperate, last-ditch attempt to sling some more mud at Karazi. Hopefully, Washington will not order an inquiry into the New York Times story, as John Kerry, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reportedly sought.

    "Any such inquiry will only end up bringing out of the cupboard skeletons that neither Kerry nor US President Barack Obama will want to see.

    "Washington must take serious note that the response to the New York Times report has come from none other than the Afghan Minister of Counter-Narcotics, General Khodaidad Khodaidad. The minister has brought into public debate Afghanistan's best-kept secret: the role of foreign troops in drug trafficking."

    The above excerpts offer an insight into a very different non-western perspective that ought to be listened to.

  3. "the elections were not going to be conducted transparently"

    Grade: A

    "But for a targeted, small counter-terrorism campaign, the shape of the indigenous government is less important.

    The fact is that Karzai was likely to win all along."

    Grade A+

  4. Isn't it somewhat puzzling to expect the political leader of Afghanistan to accomplish feats of incredible difficulty: eliminate corruption, crush the opium economy, provide services to the broad population, etc? What Western leader in the past 40 years has shown anywhere near the competence and courage to even attempt such difficult undertakings?

    With all our wealth and organization we can't eliminate organized crime. We can't eliminate the illicit, production, importation, and distribution of illicit drugs. We can't adequately recover from major hurricanes. We can't collect enough taxes to pay for government expenditures. And we average about 30,000 reported felony crimes per day(about 90 million since 9/11).

    If Karzai was impeccably honest, endowed with unlimited courage, and had the energy of a locomotive, he would probably have been assassinated long ago. While most of our politicians are skilled (and preoccupied) at staying in power, Karzai has to have those skills plus those needed to stay alive.

    The US with virtually unlimited military firepower, intelligence, and logistic support, has been unable to subdue the Taliban in eight years of trying. But Karzai is expected to quell the riot that is Afghanistan armed with a stick and a whistle.

  5. Afghan War Vets Patrol Halls Of Congress To Stop Troop Escalation: «"It's much easier to fight against one enemy than two," says Malalai Joya, (an Afghan member of parliament who has been suspended for speaking out against the warlords who run the country), identifying the two current enemies as the Taliban on the one hand, and the United States and the Afghan government it props up on the other. The Afghan government, she says, is hopelessly corrupt; President Hamid Karzai is in league with powerful warlords and druglords, some of whom are his close relatives. His top opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, is himself a well-known warlord, she says. The election process is controlled by warlords for their benefit. The farce that was the previous election will not lead to a run-off because Abdullah doesn't believe it will be fair. "It's not important who's voting. It's important who's counting," says Joya, adding that the canceled election matters little since both candidates are representatives of the warlord class.»

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