As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Battle To Defend The Clearly Fraudulent And Hated Afghan Government

The UN is now officially calling the Afghan elections fraudulent. And then calling for a... recount of the fraudulent data?

Afghanistan's troubled presidential election was thrown into further turmoil Tuesday when a U.N.-backed complaints panel charged widespread fraud and ordered a partial recount, just as election officials announced that President Hamid Karzai appeared to have gained enough votes to win.

The growing political crisis threatens to set off a direct confrontation between Karzai and his Western backers, who have been increasingly alarmed by mounting evidence of ballot-box stuffing and other irregularities, much of it reportedly benefiting Karzai's campaign.

In the days immediately following the Aug. 20 vote, U.S. officials were uniform in praising what President Obama called "a successful election." Obama said he looked forward "to renewing our partnership with the Afghan people as they move ahead under a new government."

But the widening fraud issue now seems likely to further prolong the slow election process, leaving the country without a clear leader for weeks or even months while tens of thousands of U.S. and NATO troops are battling the Taliban alongside Afghan forces. Obama's strategy also includes major economic development initiatives, improved delivery of services and a crackdown on corruption -- all of which will be difficult to implement without a valid Afghan government.

It puts the military in an unwinnable situation, trying to win hearts and minds over to a government which is clearly corrupt. And if riots break out, would the military come to the aid of the government against protesters against a stolen election?

Meanwhile, the situation is getting more dangerous for Americans over there. New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell barely escaped from the Taliban after a commando raid (his Afghan interpreter was killed in the melee). Insurgents trapped and killed four US soldiers yesterday in a firefight witnessed by McClatchy's Jonathan Landay:

"We will do to you what we did to the Russians," the insurgent's leader boasted over the radio, referring to the failure of Soviet troops to capture Ganjgal during the 1979-89 Soviet occupation.

Dashing from boulder to boulder, diving into trenches and ducking behind stone walls as the insurgents maneuvered to outflank us, we waited more than an hour for U.S. helicopters to arrive, despite earlier assurances that air cover would be five minutes away.

U.S. commanders, citing new rules to avoid civilian casualties, rejected repeated calls to unleash artillery rounds at attackers dug into the slopes and tree lines — despite being told repeatedly that they weren't near the village.

"We are pinned down. We are running low on ammo. We have no air. We've lost today," Marine Maj. Kevin Williams, 37, said through his translator to his Afghan counterpart, responding to the latter's repeated demands for helicopters.

Four U.S. Marines were killed Tuesday, the most U.S. service members assigned as trainers to the Afghan National Army to be lost in a single incident since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. Eight Afghan troops and police and the Marine commander's Afghan interpreter also died in the ambush and the subsequent battle that raged from dawn until 2 p.m. around this remote hamlet in eastern Kunar province, close to the Pakistan border.

With the government having lost legitimacy, the Taliban has become emboldened, and its forces tied up with nationalists fighting occupiers. And our mission has become increasingly scrambled. Liberal hawks (like Howard Dean!) need to come to their senses and realize how far we've strayed from the mission in Afghanistan, and how little hope we have of a turnaround.

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