NATO’s discussions of Afghanistan continue without Afghanistan

Here’s links to a couple of pieces on the NATO summit in Wales (WP and Global News).  With discussions told continuing on Afghanistan and the highest ranking Afghan official the Minister of Defense (who seems unlikely to have a very high position in the incoming government – all the key players are in Kabul right now), Afghanistan is missing an important opportunity.  We’ve already discussed some of the repercussion of the Kerry deal (here), not to mention the economic fallout (here), but with NATO leaders in Wales and no significant Afghan leader there, important discussions about military presence, aid levels, the Taliban resurgence, etc are simply sliding down the agenda.  With NATO leaders concerned about Iraq and the Ukraine, and no Afghan leader to push the Afghan agenda, it seems likely that little will emerge from what could have been a promising meeting.

At first, when Continue reading

An Inauguration with no President: What’s Karzai’s Next Move?

Stories that the palace is currently in decoration mode for the inauguration scheduled for Sept 2 (see RFL here) are pushing the electoral process to a tipping point.  With both candidates having withdrawn from the auditing process (see the WSJ here), it seems ridiculous to think that the process may be done by Sept 1 and frankly bordering on inconceivable that it will be done in a manner that both candidates accept.  We’ve discussed this foot dragging and the benefits of instability for the political elite before and an Economist editorial today echoes many of the sentiments we’ve been pushing over the past month (see in particular here and here and here).  The editorial begins “It seems everyone wants the Afghan presidential election to be over and done with. Except, maybe, for the two contenders.”  (read the rest here)

The missing part of the analysis is Continue reading

Interim Article Author Arrested

As a follow up to this mornings post, at least some in the Afghan government are taking the rumors of an interim government seriously.  Apparently, Matthew Rosenberg, the NYT writer who penned the article, has been told that he is not permitted to leave the country.  No better way to substantiate rumors that the arrest the person spreading them….Write at your own risk it seems now.

Thoughts on an Interim Government

Today’s NYT article on the potential from an interim government (see here) raises some interesting points and concerns.  Increasingly, the delicate balance between trying to move quickly towards a new government and the need for a thorough review of the ballots is difficult to find.  Every day that passes hurts the economy and Afghanistan’s stability further, but rushing the process could be incredibly costly to the long term legitimacy of the government.  For this reason, an interim government makes sense on several levels, but would it really help solve the crisis?  Here’s a quick run down of some of the costs and benefits that such a deal might create:

Reasons to support an interim government:

Countdown to the NATO Summit

With NATO leaders meeting September 4 and 5 in Wales, the pressure is growing on the auditing process.  NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently told Reuters: ‘”Soon we will have to take tough decisions because if there isn’t a legal basis for our continued presence in Afghanistan, we will have to withdraw everything by the end of this year and to do that we will have to start planning … very soon,” he said, without giving a firm date.’

In a different interview Ashraf Ghani remained optimistic that a new president will be inaugurated by the end of September and in fact suggested that the results would be ‘clear’ within the week (See Khaama Press here).  This certainly seems like the declaration of a candidate who is fairly certain of his victory and rumblings on the Abdullah side of things certainly do not suggest that such a timeline is feasible at all.

On the more technical side of things of a total of 22,828 ballot boxes, only 8,867 have been audited so far with a special audit of 6,000 concerning boxes beginning on Sunday (see Tolo here).  Given this rate of progress, it certainly seems like the end of August deadline is unrealistic.  That being said, it is clear that Continue reading

John Kerry Clears Things Up…(kinda)

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 governmkerry_650_071314090546ent 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
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Notes from an Afghan Analyst I

The following are some observations and a guest post from Muneer Salamzai:

“It seems to me that this will have a very negative impact on the sustainability of democracy  and elections in Afghanistan. In last ten years of the government in all of the elections we’ve had,  the loser has blamed the winner for corrupting the process and for a lack of transparency.   This has become an “electoral habit”  among the candidates at all level, especially in the presidential contests. In the future it certainly seems candidates will continue to try to use this as tool to pressure the winner in order to ensure his certain economic and political benefits come to them and their supporters as we saw in 2005, 2009 and now 2014.

It was disappointing for me and

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Notes from an Afghan Analyst: Fraud and Turnout

In this guest blog, Afghan analyst Mohammed Hassan Wafaey writes on changing voter perceptions on the run-off.


On Saturday June 14, 2014 Afghans voted in a runoff presidential election: a first in the country’s history.  The runoff opened new questions on voter turnout, fraud on Election Day and the neutrality of the IEC and ECC, and raised concerns about potential violence in response to the outcome.  This blog provides a brief snapshot of some of these questions and concerns.

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Thoughts on a Disputed Outcome (and who benefits from it)

With rumors of increased fraud and the fact that it is becoming more likely that Ghani has improved on his numbers from the first round, it is also becoming more likely the eventual results of the run off will be disputed.  One of the concerns here is that while this would be bad for Afghan voters and the international community in Afghanistan, it could actually be good for many in the Afghan political elite.  Why?

Well, on the side of Afghan voters and the international community, the issue seems fairly clear.  A disputed outcome will delay the set up of the new government.  The long election process has already put a lot of business plans on hold as businessmen and merchants try to figure out what the new composition of the government will be.  Similarly, this makes international aid programs stall as embassies wait to see who the new ministers will be.  Beyond this, a disputed outcome is likely to encourage localized violence between disputing groups which even when potentially unrelated to the insurgency could cause more instability.

But why would some of the elites want a disputed outcome?  Well, on one level, if Continue reading

Could Corruption be Good for Political Engagement?

Going through a series of interviews, particularly focusing on the increased role that ethnicity seemed to play in this round of voting, but I am more struck by an anecdote that one of our researchers told me about going to the clinic with his mother yesterday.  In the clinic there was both male and female waiting rooms.  His mother was in the female side with a group of fairly poor, uneducated women.  When a new patient came in, she congratulated the rest of the women in the room on the apparent victory of Ashraf Ghani (this was in a Pashtun area primarily supporting Ghani). One of the other women, however, immediately claimed that he was a crook and would only win by stuffing ballots.   A lengthy argument ensued about the relative merits of either candidate, their backgrounds historically and their potential role in corruption.  The argument got so heated that the doctor had to come out and tell people to keep it down.  My research laughed that in this relatively conservative area where women in the past were not even permitted to vote, suddenly you had a political debate going on at a high volume in the doctors office.


Similarly, it might be counterintuitive (and could ultimately backfire), but in the period between campaigns, various Continue reading