Monday, November 02, 2009

No, Seriously

Really, Abdullah Abdullah. So the election in Afghanistan last month was rigged in a fairly blatant and amateurish fashion, and over the past few days we have (1) Karzai's runoff opponent Mr. Abdullah threatening to pull out if the same bunch of jokers that fixed the first election run the second, (2) Abdullah making good on his threat and quitting on Saturday, and yesterday (3) the US saying it's troublesome but we'll go ahead and fully support Karzai because polling indicates Abdullah would have lost anyway.

Meanwhile, Wali Karzai laughs all the way to the bank.

Is there a better solution here? If there is, it's escaping me at the moment. I spent part of my swine flu downtime finishing Ahmed Rashid's Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, a complicated, detailed, extremely bothersome account that explains why "graveyard of empires" barely scratches the surface. Pakistan's secret intelligence agency (ISI) has spent the past couple of decades propping up the Taliban, effectively making them the ISI's western franchise in Kabul, Kandahar, and Helmand, all while the military either turned a blind eye or flat-out lied about their involvement and Pervez Musharraf conducted the government's business with the sole aim of maintaining his hold on power.

Meanwhile, since the September 11 attacks the CIA has been paying off first the warlords of the now-defunct Northern Alliance and now the drug lords in the south, with the mission focus remaining always Arab-tied al Qaeda operatives rather than the guys who are poppy farmers today, Taliban fuckwits tomorrow, a-Q sympathizers the day after that, and then poppy farmers again when the local warlord makes a power grab. Oh, and we've thrown a few billion dollars at Pakistan, which has promptly turned around and handed most of that to their military, which has promptly funneled wads of it to the Taliban holding court in the Waziristans, and you can see where this is going.

Most of our UN partner nations have greatly limited their involvement in Afghanistan (Germany, for example, refused to conduct combat patrols after dark) while all of us have pretty much left infrastructure development and repair--the one thing everyone seems to agree would go the furthest toward weaning the populace away from the Taliban toward nonsectarian stability, and which represents the most efficient use of cash resources sent over there--to NGOs, most of which can no longer operate in-country because the Taliban kill them. The UN food program gave up years ago after too many food convoys were hijacked and the supplies stolen or simply burned. This in a country where only about 16 percent of the land is arable.

Tribal factionalism, ISI intervention, Indian intervention, Pakistani Taliban infiltration, an abysmal literacy rate, and seven years of US policy constructed by people with no Pushtu language skills, let alone even a rudimentary understanding of the dozens of cultural and political vectors crisscrossing the country, have fed on each other to create a damn near unwinnable situation.

Hahmid Karzai has been the target of at least three assassination attempts--the ones that have been publicized, anyway--since he's been in office, and now a good faction of his countrymen think he got his second five-year term by cheating his way there as a puppet of the Americans. And all we can do is shrug and say this is our guy? Good luck, Mr. President. I hope you've read Rashid's book. A little history might go a long way here.

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