Hamid Karzai has been declared the winner of the Afghanistan presidential contest by the misnamed Independent Electoral Commission, the local Afghan commission appointed by . . . Hamid Karzai. The commission ruled that since the only other candidate had withdrawn, there was no point in holding a run-off election, and that Karzai had won by default. His rival, Abdullah Abdullah appears to still be seeking cabinet posts for members of his party, though he himself is not willing to join the government. Karzai says he wishes to reach out to the civil political opposition in forming his government.
Meanwhile, it turns out that Canadian and probably US military interpreters of Pashto sometimes mistranslate statements of detainees, causing them to be branded Taliban and sent to prison! The CBC says that Thomas Hammes, a retired US Marine colonel who also was in Afghanistan told it: “We’re willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make sure ice cream and steak is there . . . And I would trade all of that for my entire tour if I could have one decent translator . . . Many times I’d trade body armour for a translator.”
Washington’s plans for Afghanistan are premised on an ability to train up 200,000 police, and another 200,000 regular army troops, to provide security for the country. This plan does not reckon with social realities, such as the ethnic composition of the army and police, and such as the fact that 90% of the present army troops are illiterate. A US police chief who helped train Afghan policemen reports, according to Mark Brunswick of the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
‘ Ball spent 15 months in Afghanistan, overseeing a $340 million annual contract to recruit and train the country’s nearly nonexistent national police force for DynCorp International with the U.S. State Department. Many of the recruits he was provided — some under threat of imprisonment if they did not show up — did not know right from left. Some had never seen their reflection in a mirror. Opium drug lords, more than the Taliban, run provinces like plantation owners in the Old South. Government officials at the highest levels not only tolerate corruption but expect it.’
Noah Coburn and Ana Larsen explain why [pdf] the presidential election, which coincided with provincial elections, was and was not a disaster. They maintain that legitimacy in Afghanistan lies on a spectrum rather than being a black and white matter, and point to Karzai’s Hazara constituency beyond his Pashtun one.
In Afghanistan, US troops fight and die, and a Chinese firm is awarded a $3 bn. copper mining contract.
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