It’s back to square one
In a broad sense, the presidential elections reflect the failure of the non-Taliban and non-Islamicist Afghan leadership to find a power-sharing formula among them.india Updated: Nov 02, 2009 21:37 IST
The cancellation of the second round of the Afghan presidential elections is good news only for the Taliban. Incumbent President Hamid Karzai will reign in Kabul for another five years, thanks to the first round of voting where he failed to gain the necessary 50 per cent of the votes. This will be used against him not only by his Afghan foes but also by foreign countries looking for an excuse to wriggle out of any role in his country. Perhaps worst of all is that Dr Abdullah Abdullah and other Afghan presidential candidates will be unwilling to support Karzai. This is particularly unfortunate given that they are all on the same side when it comes to the real faultline in the struggle for Afghanistan’s soul.
The US, the key foreign player in Afghanistan, will find it all the more difficult to garner domestic support for an expensive and bloody military campaign.
Part of the blame for this political fiasco must be apportioned to Washington. The US sought to engineer a flawless election that could be peddled at home even though this was wildly unrealistic, given Afghanistan’s circumstances. The US position was probably coloured by the poisonous relations that exist between Mr Karzai and the US Special Envoy for Afghanistan-Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke.
In hindsight, Dr Abdullah overplayed his hand when it came to his demands against Mr Karzai, which included some power sharing. Mr Karzai was always on a stronger wicket. After all, he fell short of an absolute majority by about 15,000 votes and it was relatively certain that Dr Abdullah had no chance of even improving on his first round percentage. Nonetheless, the Afghan President would have been better off coming to terms with Dr Abdullah.
In a broad sense, the presidential elections reflect the failure of the non-Taliban and non-Islamicist Afghan leadership to find a power-sharing formula among them. This makes Karzai and the present configuration in Kabul all the more dependent on the US government for support. If the US wavers, Mr Karzai is almost certain to continue his policy of trying to find an accommodation with some elements of the Taliban. Neither of these scenarios is good news for India or other nations that have suffered the terrorist-friendly policies of the first Taliban regime.