The White House Doesn't Get Afghanistan

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on November 3, 2009

In the aftermath of Abdullah Abdullah’s withdrawal from the second round of the presidential race in Afghanistan, we get the following from the Obama Administration:

Advisers to President Obama called Mr. Abdullah’s decision a personal choice that would not greatly affect American policy and was in line with the Afghan Constitution. They portrayed the election of Mr. Karzai as essentially settled enough that Mr. Obama could move forward with deciding whether to send as many as 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, with an announcement that probably remains at least three weeks away.

“Every poll that had been taken there suggested that he was likely to be defeated anyway, so we are going to deal with the government that is there,” David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, said of Mr. Abdullah on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

This absurdly flippant reply disguises the degree to which the electoral process in Afghanistan has likely undermined the faith Afghans have in democracy itself. I recognize that there isn’t all that much the Obama Administration can do about electoral dysfunction in another country, but at the very least, they could acknowledge said dysfunction, couldn’t they? The Administration has to recognize that its project in Afghanistan may have taken a step back thanks to the botched presidential election, in which there clearly was fraud. Instead, the Administration seems to be desperate to cover up any talk of electoral irregularities and their consequences (see again the Administration’s reaction to the Peter Galbraith firing).

But fine. Let’s assume that the election in Afghanistan was successfully concluded (for a given definition of the word “success”). Are we now to believe that the Obama Administration finally has the “full partner” it has longed for in Afghanistan? And if so, can we see the Administration act by finally sending over the troops that General McChrystal has asked for, and everyone knows are needed in Afghanistan?

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