Do We Want a Stable Democracy in Afghanistan–Or Just a Short Term Ally to Fight the Taliban?

Neil Wollman and Abdulhadi Hairan

In late March, President Obama paid a surprise visit to Kabul to meet his Afghan counterpart, reportedly asking Karzai to improve governance reform to combat corruption. Since then, the two governments have exchanged jabs.

Karzai has been openly defiant of U.S. concerns, specifically election reform in the wake of a presidential election widely considered fraudulent, and has charged foreign interference in elections. The U.S. has focused on his decrees eliminating UN participants on the Election Complaint Commission (which was followed by a partial retreat).

The reaction by the Afghan Parliament has been mixed, with the Karzai-dominated upper house supporting his decrees and the lower house rejecting them. In March, Karzai told a UN representative that by mid-April there would be a “major and constructive reshuffle of the election commission,” and he did dismiss the head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC).

Most recently, Karzai and the UN worked out a compromise that makes some positive changes in personnel and procedure that will improve election governance, and which has brought the UN and donor nations on board to fund the September parliamentary elections. However, there are complaints from Afghan opposition leaders and some in parliament who say that the reforms are not sufficient. And likely were only enough to win international funding for the election.

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Afghanistan: Women Dying and Torture Run Amuck

Jeffrey Kaye

Two reports coming out of Afghanistan illustrate the depth of hypocrisy and subterfuge characterizing the US/NATO intervention in that country. One could cite a myriad of such examples, so immoral and wrong is the US war there.

In the first report, a 2009 human rights assessment prepared by Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department, obtained by The Canadian Press and reported at CBC News, revealed a skyrocketing suicide rate among Afghan women:

"Self-immolation is being used by increasing numbers of Afghan women to escape their dire circumstances and women constitute the majority of Afghan suicides," said the report, completed in November 2009….

The director of a burn unit at a hospital in the relatively peaceful province of Herat reported that in 2008 more than 80 women attempted suicide by setting themselves on fire, many of them in the early 20s.

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What If The People Of Afghanistan Could Choose?

Cliff Kindy & Neil Wollman

After an intense review, President Obama recently ordered about thirty thousand more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. The question is, should this decision have been made by the U.S. government? The goals for the United States are to prevent an Al Qaida threat in the homeland and to stabilize the Afghan situation, allowing for some level of central government control and a face-saving withdrawal. But who else could or should have weighed in on this decision, and what are their motivations?

The Afghan government realizes that any downsizing of the U.S. presence could threaten its hold on political power. President Karzai recently stated that he expects the U.S. military presence to continue until 2024. The U.S. public is split, mainly along party lines, between those who want an early withdrawal of troops to prevent a quagmire, and those who support the U.S. military presence and fear that withdrawal would squander the investment already made.

The missing voice among these acknowledged players is that of the Afghan public. No country can impose on another a decision that country cannot abide. History is filled with attempts by strong powers to force actions upon weaker ones. This has worked sometimes in the short run, but usually crashes in the long term. The power of democracy is its dependence upon the will of the people who are impacted by a decision.

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Revisiting Afghanistan from a Different Perspective

Latika Mangrulkar

Bhabani Sen Gupta is an award-winning Bengali novelist, a former foreign policy consultant to Indian Prime Minister Inder Gujral in the late nineties, an advocate of non-nuclear proliferation policy in India, and a socio-political commentator (see www.freshquest2009.blogspot.com).

Over the past several months, it has been my honor to assist Mr. Sen Gupta in updating his socio-political narrative “Pakistan’s Truth” (1996), a humanistic story of the two “estranged neighbors,” India and Pakistan, who must learn to co-exist. Through our correspondence, we have also shared and discussed our thoughts and concerns on the unfolding events in Afghanistan and the sub-continent. Here I offer the key points of agreement that have emerged.

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