Security and Legitimacy in Afghanistan

Yesterday, the Afghan Electoral Complaints Commission announced that it has received 2,615 complaints about vote-stealing and other types of fraud related to the country’s recent presidential election, the final results of which have yet to be determined. The vast majority of accusations have been directed against Hamid Karzai, the incumbent, who has a 13 point lead over his closest opponent, Abdullah Abdullah. Mr. Karzai has reportedly won 46 percent of the votes that have been counted thus far. If no candidate wins an absolute majority, there will be a run-off between the two leading candidates.

Many Afghans are disillusioned with Mr. Karzai, who has been the president of Afghanistan for nearly five years. His administration has been plagued by corruption and has failed to provide sufficient security and economic development projects.

Delaga Bariz, a tribal leader who is dissatisfied with Mr. Karzai, expressed the sentiment of many when he said “There are no clinics, no schools, no roads, no water dams–nothing.”

Regardless of the outcome of the election, political legitimacy in Afghanistan ultimately depends on whether the government can protect citizens from insurgents, a necessary precondition for building infrastructure and promoting economic progress. There are two ways to achieve that security goal. One is to build up the army and National Police, and the other is to persuade insurgents to stop fighting.

NATO is pursuing the first method by training Afghan security personnel to subdue the Taliban, a difficult and time-consuming task, while carrying out its own counterinsurgency missions. This process will require years of continuous commitments of Western troops.

Afghan leaders, including Mr. Karzai and Mr. Abdullah, want to pursue the second method and have called for reconciliation with the Taliban as a means of weakening the insurgency. Below is a link to a New York Times blog that presents several different views about the implications of negotiating with the Taliban.


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