While the re-count goes on and Afghan voters wait to see what type of government system will emerge, John Kerry published an op-ed today meant to declare US government support for the process and to also clarify some of the political rumors that are swirling. His op-ed (which can be read in full here) did the former, but not the later.
In particular, he notes that
countries do not go through political transformations in a vacuum – which seems an important point as the US, UN and others conceive of their own roles in the future of politics in Afghanistan. Of course to take a more pessimistic angle on the issue, you could say he is gently accepting responsibility for America’s role in creating the political mess in Afghanistan (of course they are not solely responsible, but their role needs to be acknowledged) and is suggesting that despite the draw down, the US government has a commitment to support the ongoing (and necessary) government reforms. Of course he emphasizes that this needs to continue to be an Afghan driven process and that “It’s not for outsiders to describe the contents of the political framework both candidates.”
One of the more interesting lines was “The audit is only one part of the challenge confronting democracy in Afghanistan today. Equally important are the actions of the two candidates, Dr. Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, and their political teams.” While lauding the candidates for coming to an agreement, embedded in this statement is that the reason we reached such a crisis point is because of the actions of Ghani, Abdullah and their teams. While the counting process was certainly a mess, their failure to respect the process and to allow their followers to make inflammatory remarks is certainly what pushed the situation to the brink.
The most frustrating part of Kerry’s piece was what was left out. Towards the end he say “I can tell you what is not in that one-page document” and that it does not violate the Constitution and does not establish a parliamentary system. Afghan voters are tired of hearing what’s not in the agreement and need to be told what is in there.
Kerry does say that the agreement creates a new executive position and creates “an opportunity” for Afghanistan. Surely Afghans deserve more than this. They have watched after enthusiastic voting a counting process completely undermine their democratic intentions. They have seen the US government broker a deal between the two candidates and yet there are no real details on what the deal looks like. This, of course, is not John Kerry’s responsibility as much as it is Ghani’s and Abdullah’s, but it’s time for them to introduce a little transparency into the system. Businesses remain parallelized, donors are unsure of what projects should be implemented. These closed door negotiations have frozen life for ordinary Afghans. The Ministry of the Interior is reporting an increase in crime (see Tolo article here) and the Taliban are making advances. It’s time for the elite to lead, instead of squabbling over who gets what piece of the pie. And surely Kerry knows better than to continue to facilitate this.