Top 7 Surprising pieces of Good news in Afghanistan Presidential Election

(By Juan Cole)

Afghanistan went to the polls on Saturday, despite threats by the Taliban to disrupt the elections and calls by the extremists for Afghans to boycott the vote.

As it turns out, the elections appear to have been a success, despite many problems (including a last-minute shortage of ballots as more voters showed up than expected). Here are the top pieces of surprising good news that came out of them:

1. The nearly 400,000 Afghanistan National Army and police forces were deployed throughout the country effectively. They stopped traffic into the capital of Kabul from afternoon on Friday, allowing the Saturday vote to avoid being disrupted. This operation was a difficult and complex one, and that the security forces were capable of it is a good sign.

2. Afghans were relatively enthusiastic about voting. Some 7 million went to the voting both out of 12 million who are eligible to vote (58%). The turnout was about twice that of the 2009 presidential comapaign.

3. Fully one third of those who voted were women. Women came out in large numbers in the big urban centers. In Taliban strongholds in the south and east, however, many had to stay home.

Female voters defy threats in Afghanistan

4. The electorate broadly defied the Taliban, voting in very large numbers despite their difficult economic situation.

5. Some 96 percent of polling stations were open despite Taliban threats and despite a last minute shortage of ballots. DW writes, “Only 211 of the 6423 polling stations remained closed…”

6. One third of the electorate is youth, who came out in force for their candidate (urban youth tend to favor Ashraf Ghani Ahmedzaid, who was close to the UNO.

7. This election marks the first peaceful transfer of power from one president to another in Afghanistan’s history.

There are many challenges before the country. Outgoing president Hamid Karzai could try to position himself as the power behind the throne once the new president is chose. Zalmai Rasoul, among frontrunners, is said to be closest to Karzai.

The nearly 400, 000 troops and police deployed on Saturday cost money, far more than Afghanistan’s budget would allow for. Unless NATO countries take up the slack, the new state could fail and wither.

The Taliban have demanded all foreign forces leave as a price for compromise. All the major presidential candidates said that they would permit some US troops to remain.

As the US and NATO draw down their presence, Afghanistan could become a focus again for India-Pakistan rivalry, with potential for renewed violence.

The country is desperately poor and a small but significant Taliban low intensity conflict has taken hold in the south and east, which won’t be easy to tamp down.

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Related video:

Euronews: “High turnout in Afghanistan as voters defy Taliban threats”

9 Responses

  1. I have to agree with Professor Cole’s assessment and analysis of the recent election in Afghanistan. It really took me by surprise. But the professor is an optimist by nature and nurture, and he always looks for even a faint glimmer of a silver lining in our foreign policy. Whereas I am a pessimist and defeatist having served in Vietnam. But of course. that’s my problem and not his. Bravo to all the citizens in Afghanistan who voted in this recent election and demonstrated their faith for a democracy in their country.

  2. .
    I am under the impression that there are tens of thousands of foreign troops in Afghanistan.
    I understand that the country is under foreign occupation.
    If that’s accurate,
    much of what you celebrate is just not so.
    .

    • A successful election is worth celebrating, the fact that foreign forces are present does not change that, such forces were required for the removal of the taliban and were needed to prevent their return to power.

      If the next afghan government is successful afghanistan will finally be able to effectivly stand up for itself.

    • But are those troops intimidating groups of people that want to vote in opposition? Are there boycotts by such groups?

  3. One may be against US invasion of Iraq and critical of many US policies in Afghanistan, nevertheless, one has to admire the remarkable election in which a majority of Afghans have participated despite threats by the Taliban and despite the problems that they are still facing in the society. The participation of a relatively large number of women in the election is particularly very impressive. One should also give some credit to President Karzai for presiding over an election for his successor that has been mainly free and fair. If democracy holds in Afghanistan this would also be a great legacy left by the United States, despite many sacrifices made by both Americans and Afghans.

    However, the main question is what is going to happen after the election and whether a number of US forces should stay on in Afghanistan or not. Many people who advocate the continued presence of US forces in Afghanistan have not clearly said what the aim of their presence is. If it is to fight against the Taliban, when the presence of tens of thousands of US and ISAF forces did not deter the Taliban what can be achieved by the presence of a few thousand American forces confined to their barracks. It can be argued that just like the 10,000 or so American forces left in Iraq they will be ineffective in any domestic clashes and will in fact be sitting ducks. If the presence of US bases in Afghanistan is for keeping an eye on the neighboring countries then it should be spelled out and debated openly. Although the return of the Taliban to power is a very worrying possibility, on balance, it seems that the United States should withdraw all her forces from Afghanistan and leave it to the Afghans to sort out their problems.

  4. Karzai has shaped the election at every stage. He narrowed the candidate field, persuaded others to run, brokered an alliance between Dostum and Ahmadzai (to split the northern vote from Abdullah), and he distributed funds to Rassoul and Ahmadzai. Karzai is a shrewd political operator.

    In the end, either Ahmadzai or Rassoul will win. Abdullah would not fare well in a runoff.

    Besides India-Pakistan, the Chinese have recently increased security engagement with Afghanistan. They are now training Afghan security (police and army) personnel. It’ll be very interesting to see how the Chinese position themselves in the great game.

  5. If the Taliban were not part of this political process and remain outside a government that will be incapable of prevailing over the Taliban, then the US/NATO forces are either in for another few more years of war or being nonentities in “safe” areas just keeping money flowing to the M-I complex.

    • afghan people chose to keep the taliban out of government because they are agents of pakistan and only represent exremist deobandi islam, something not representing afghans or their islam

  6. “As the US and NATO draw down their presence, Afghanistan could become a focus again for India-Pakistan rivalry, with potential for renewed violence.” — as though what India is doing and what Pakistan is doing in Afghanistan are equivalent!!!

    Why not be honest like Carlotta Gall, in “The Wrong Enemy” and simply say that Pakistan may back Taliban or other factions that will undermine Afghanistan’s government and sovereignty?

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