Foreign Policy Blogs

Afghanistan: Election Holdups and Insurgency Holddowns

All things Afghanistan today:

US Assistant Secretary Boucher went into the ‘Kleig Lights’ early this year in front to the press in Kabul to discuss, you guessed it, all things Afghanistan.  He went over US-Pakistan relations, Afghanistan-Pakistan relations, troop deployment strategy, Obama and the US's committment to the nation, the Taliban's resurgence and governance in certain Afghan areas, and voter registration and possible delaying of this years Presidential election.

Boucher happily noted the Afghan Election Commission had registered 3.5 million new voters for the upcoming elections, but when further pressured by a journalist he admitted that not all was well.  First off, apparently the Election Commission had complained of a lack of funding, but Boucher stated that all funding would be taken care of by the US, EU, and Japan.  Boucher also dealt with questions of when the actual election would occurr, apparently the constitution provides some fluidity in this regard, and how this might effect the legitimacy of Karzai if it took awhile for one to occurr.  Boucher emphasized that they wanted a ‘maxium’ of Afghanis to vote and that it was in the end an Afghani decision as to when the election would happen.  A press member also raised the problem of getting those Afghans registered who were in violent battle zones where the Taliban may have control of the area.  Boucher largely deflected this question, talking about ‘careful planning’ and that the registration process was still underway.  Also, coming out of this press conference was Boucher and through him, the US's, strong view that elections were the way to go.  Most would agree to this, but there are major pitfalls for a nascent democracy having somewhat illegimate, mandated, or at least seen that way, elections, which can make things worse, not better.

Taliban in Control

New York Time Journalist Dexter Filkins explores what Assistant Secretary Boucher tried to gloss over, and that is the growing strength and territorial takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban.  Filkins researched many towns and provinces in the Afghan south, near the Pakistan border, and continually found US/NATO troops only able to control certain town centers, with the Taliban holding or at least preventing further government encroachment, everywhere else.  Filkins interviews senior US military officials who stated ‘we’re not there’, 'the borders are wide open,’ and 'the insurgency is homegrown and self-sustaining.’ There was also a lot of talk about how new troops were needed to hold down vital town centers and also push the offensive against the Taliban, but the tone of military officiers and Filkins’ himself is one of pessimism.  They worry that the counterinsurgency methods that worked in Iraq, holding town, city centers, partnering with local tribes, and bring governance slowly outward, would be much more difficult in Afghanistan and this is indeed true.  Here is the hope for the extra troops:

22taliban-graf01-190.jpgAmerican commanders say the extra troops will better enable them to pursue a more sophisticated campaign against the insurgents; the overriding objective, rather than killing Taliban fighters, is to provide security for the civilian population and thereby isolate the insurgents.

But can the Taliban be isolated with so many small villages and a wide open border to hide them?  Can NATO/US/Afghan government convince enough tribes and local leaders to follow their lead, instead of the Taliban?

(Photo Source: Troubled southern cities in Afghanistan: New York Times)

 

Author

Patrick Frost

Patrick Frost recently graduated from New York University's Masters Program in Political Science - International Relations. His MA thesis analyzed the capabilities and objectives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Central Asia and beyond and explored how these affected U.S. interests and policy.

Areas of Focus:
Eurasia, American Foreign Policy, Ideology, SCO

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