The charade that passed for a presidential and provincial election in Afghanistan was staged on Thursday 20th August 2009. According to the information released by the occupation forces and the puppet Kaizai regime, 40 candidates contested for the presidency, whilst 3,180 stood in the election for provincial councils. According to the same sources, of the 17 million Afghans eligible to vote, 5 million allegedly did so, that is, just under 30 per cent of the electorate entitled to vote. The resistance for its part has claimed that the actual turnout was less than 10 per cent. This not withstanding the deals that the Karzai authorities had done with some local sections of the resistance for a ceasefire on the polling day.
The election, held under the shadow of the guns of the occupation forces, could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be free and fair. Quite correctly therefore, the resistance had called upon the Afghan people to boycott and treat with contempt this imperialist-staged mockery of an election. “We will never call this election truth” said a member of the resistance. He added, “It is a kind of drama made by the Americans. The person who is winning in this election is the agent of America”.
As if to back up the boycott call of the resistance, and to demonstrate that it is the writ of the resistance, not that of the Karzai government or its NATO masters, that runs in Kabul, a suicide bomber struck outside the NATO headquarters on Saturday August 15th with the clear intention of undermining confidence in the safety of 6,500 polling stations across Afghanistan. This was an attack in the diplomatic enclave of Kabul, the Afghan capital, and targeted on one of the most high profile symbols of the occupation – the HQ of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) – which killed 8 people and injured another 100. The same weekend, five more British soldiers were killed, taking the number of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan to 200. Today on August 25th, the number stood at 206. On August 18th, a suicide bomber struck a NATO supply convoy on a highway east of Kabul on the road to Bagram airbase. Earlier on the same day a rocket landed on the presidential palace in the centre of the city; another rocket was aimed at the police headquarters. On election day alone, there were 73 attacks by the resistance on NATO and puppet government targets.
Apart from the inability of the occupation forces and the puppet Karzai regime, which controls nothing beyond the boundary of the presidential palace (even if one concedes that it controls the few thousand square metres within its perimeter), to provide security at the polling stations, most Afghans stayed away because they had no intention of participating in an exercise aimed solely at the legitimising the occupation the of Afghanistan by the predatory armies of imperialism, especially those of Anglo-American imperialism. If the turnout was abysmally low in Kabul, it was much worse in the provinces – especially the southern provinces (the Pashtun belt), such as Kandahar and Helmand, where the polling stations were completely deserted.
The exceptionally low voter turnout across the whole country merely serves to undermine the legitimacy of the entire process and of whoever is declared the winner. On top of the derisory turnout, the whole process was marred by cheating, multiple voting, fraud, intimidation, rigging and ballot stuffing, with election and security officials loyal to Hamid Karzai gaily facilitating and participating in fraudulent practices on behalf of the puppet president. Hardly any Afghan has faith in the impartiality of the so-called Independent Commission.
Fearing correctly that fraud and intimidation on their own would not help him get ‘elected’, Karzai entered into deals with several warlords and drug traffickers, including Marshal Mohammed Fahim (a Tajik leader), Karim Khalili (a Hazara leader) and General Abdul Rashid Dostum, the notorious Uzbek commander responsible for the murder of thousands of prisoners after the battle of Kunduz in 2001. Dostum returned to Afghanistan on August 16th from his exile in Turkey at the invitation of Karzai.
A corrupt and failed regime
Following the overthrow of the Taliban government by the invading imperialist armies, Karzai was brought in by the occupation regime as the head of a transitional government in 2001 to provide an Afghan face to the occupation. In the elections staged by the occupation forces in 2004, Karzai was declared the winner, having allegedly secured 54 per cent of the votes. Since then, his administration has failed totally on every front – from security to basic services. There is no electricity; education and healthcare are in a far worse condition than ever before; the position of women has deteriorated further; life expectancy has registered a steep decline; infant mortality has risen; a third of the population has no access to clean water and 7 million Afghans receive less than their minimum food requirements. All this, along with the amassing of huge riches by wealthy merchants, criminal gangs and drug traffickers, corrupt officials and foreign monopoly corporations, has completely alienated the Karzai administration from the Afghan masses, while the promiscuous use of force by the armies of occupation, rightly perceived by the locals as a threat to their lives and livelihoods, has made them the much-hated targets of the wrath of Afghan people and their resistance forces.
The occupying powers are keen to portray the recent August 20th sorry excuse for an election as a success, but their blanket endorsement of the exercise, entirely bereft of legitimacy in Afghan eyes, runs the risk of widening further still the chasm dividing the Afghan people and the occupation regime. Hence their dilemma and their inability to disclose the result a whole week after the election. This should not be difficult, considering that a mere 10 percent of the electorate voted in the poll – thus there being not many votes to be counted. Our readers may recall the hell that was let loose by the imperialist mass misinformation media and the political spokesmen of imperialism consequent upon the delay in the publication of the election result following the last presidential election in Zimbabwe. This time the same gentry have gone docilely quiet, on the principle that whereof one has nothing to say thereof one must remain silent.
Run off fraught with difficulties
After the election, both the leading candidates – Hamid Karzai, the incumbent, and Abdullah Abdullah – have claimed victory by thumping majorities. Meanwhile, the election commission says that it has managed to count only 10 per cent of the votes, whose number it puts at half a million. Of these it says, Karzai secured 40.6 per cent while Mr Abdullah, a former foreign minister, got 38.7 percent. Assuming a repeat of this pattern as further returns of these farcical results following a farcical election are made public, no candidate would secure the required 50 per cent to avoid a re-run of this farce in coming October – a run-off which would add another layer of uncertainty to a fast-deteriorating military situation. The occupation authorities thus find themselves between a rock and a hard place. They could, of course, brazenly declare one of the leading contenders to be the outright winner. This, however, would run the risk of causing huge resentment in the camp of the defeated candidate and fuel the fires of internecine warfare in the camp of collaboration with the predatory occupation forces. Alternatively, they could opt for a second instalment of this farce in October and watch the security situation deteriorate as the contenders for the position of chief puppet of imperialism in Afghanistan tear each other apart, bringing to light the hollow, corrupt, degenerate, decadent and treacherous nature of the rickety structure that passes for the government of Afghanistan. The occupation forces are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
No attempt to legitimise the occupation, through an election farce or any other device, is going to work, for the fact is that the Afghan resistance is winning – a fact recognised even by the top US commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal. In July, the deadliest month for the occupation, the resistance inflicted 76 casualties on the imperialist forces. The deaths of four US soldiers on 25 August served to ensure 2009 as the deadliest year for the occupying powers since they illegally toppled the Taliban government eight years ago. Since their entry into Afghanistan in 2001, the annual death toll among the British and US forces has steadily risen in almost every year, with a total loss of 294 soldiers in 2008. With four months still to go, 2009 has seen the number of fatalities among NATO forces, now already standing at 295, surpass those of 2008.
For British forces, too, July was the deadliest month, with 22 soldiers killed and 94 wounded. A further 13 British soldiers have been killed in August, mostly in the Sangin area.
The resistance, already in control of the countryside, is busy tightening its noose around Kabul and applying direct pressure in the cities of the eastern provinces of Khost and Paktiya. In Helmand in the south of the country, there is no safe area, with rockets hitting Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, every day. In quite a few areas, where a US company patrols during the day, at night the road is held by the resistance.
The situation is deteriorating across the whole country, not just in the south. The Afghan government is only nominally present in a third of the country; of its 34 provinces, 10 are in the south and east, covering the bulk of the Afghan territory, where the government has no real presence.
The strategy of ‘clear, hold and build’, lately adopted by the imperialist coalition has become impossible as the resistance is part of the population, indistinguishable from the ordinary village folk, most of them willingly supporting the fighters against the occupation, for, to use the words of Max Hastings, “Foreign forces careering through villages in armoured vehicles, scattering flocks in low-flying helicopters and killing civilians through promiscuous use of firepower are a formula for assured failure” (‘Unreliable allies weight on the West in Afghanistan’, Financial Times, 31 July 2009).
Besides, the resistance has shown a remarkable capacity for changes in its tactics. When, in July, the US offered the resistance a “historic” battle, the latter chose not to be involved in a frontal fight with US troops in southern Helmand, instead regrouping in the north, with more favourable terrain to wage guerrilla warfare, and hit hard the UK bases that had been “thinned out” to support the operation Panther’s Claw in southern Helmand – so causing an increase in British causalities near Sangin and thus frustrating the strategy of the occupation. During the fierce fighting since the beginning of July, while the occupation forces have taken heavy casualties, the resistance casualties have been relatively low, partly because of the latter’s reliance on improvised explosive devices. Far from being weakened, the resistance is stronger than before, with its morale at an all-time high.
Occupation: the cause of failure
The imperialist spokesmen and punditocracy blame the failure of the imperialist forces variously on the lack of enough equipment and men, on the shortage of Pashtun speakers in the armies and ministries of defence and foreign affairs, on the inadequate strength of the Afghan police and the national army, on the absence of stable and reliable Afghan institutions, and on corruption at all levels of the Afghan government and security structures – all of which may be true. What they will not easily countenance, however, is that the biggest cause of their failure is nothing but the predatory invasion, and occupation, of Afghanistan by the combined forces of imperialism, especially of Anglo-American imperialism. The occupation serves as a recruiting sergeant for the resistance, while providing a much-hated and much-deserved target to the patriots waging armed struggle for the liberation of their country from the jackboot of the imperialist soldiery.
Support for war eroding
While the resistance may not be in a position to defeat the occupation forces in open combat, it can clearly keep the fight going indefinitely, and thus wear down the will of the imperialists to win. General McChrystal was dispatched by the US defence department to Afghanistan as he promised to deliver more with fewer troops. Soon, however, he will be asking for more troops to bring the total of occupation forces to 120,000 – a number totally inadequate for a successful counter-insurgency campaign. With no hope of sealing the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, these reinforcements won’t be sufficient to stabilise, let alone pacify, even one or two provinces in the south. That being the case, he will have no option but to request further troop reinforcements next year – not a spectacle calculated to please the US administration, which faces mid-term elections in 2010.
General Sir David Richards, the incoming head of the British army, recently blurted out the truth that British forces were committed to remain in Afghanistan for the next forty years. While this may be a more realistic assessment of how long it will be before Afghanistan can be pacified, it completely ignores the fact that, with public support in the US, Britain and Europe for this war already fast eroding, neither the American, nor British or European populations will put up with the prospect of a decades-long war in Afghanistan, especially in the aftermath of the defeat of Anglo-American forces in Iraq and their continuing withdrawal, albeit at a snail’s pace, from that country. Mounting casualties among the occupation forces, escalating victories of the resistance, and the disintegration of the collaborationist layers of Afghan society, will see to it; and add to this the hostility of the populations in the imperialist countries to the filthy carnage perpetrated in their name by their governments in Afghanistan. The sooner this realisation dawns upon the ruling circles of the US, Britain and other European countries waging this predatory war, the sooner they withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, the better it would be for the Afghans, who then, shorn of the oppression of foreign occupation, will be able to start rebuilding their country, so badly devastated by several decades of Anglo-American imperialist intervention and occupation.
Death to imperialism!
Victory to the resistance!
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