Hamid Karzai - Caricature

Hamid Karzai - Caricature by DonkeyHotey, on Flick

Pic courtesy of Donkey-Hotey

Okay so we are (slowly) getting out of Afghanistan. Sure we’ve been there a decade and there are still large areas of the country that the we don’t control, but there is a (sort of) military there and the US will train more and more soldiers for it in over the next three years of our withdrawal. It’ll work, no really, after all there is a democratic government that will hold it all together when we leave….oh, wait, there isn’t really a solid government there.

How bad is it? Well, there was a little noticed commission that found recently found that 62 of the 249 (about 25%) were elected fraudulently and should be removed from their seats.

Given that we know there was massive fraud in the last round of both the presidential and parliamentary elections, this might sound like a good thing, a cleaning of the Afghan house political, with an eye to being a more open and functional democracy. That would be great it if were actually the case but, sadly, it does not look as though it is.

You see, the law makers this commission found should be removed is seen, unsurprisingly, by these law makers and others as a way for President Hamid Karzai to discredit one of the only institutions that might counterbalance him. After all there is a huge cloud of electoral fraud hanging over his re-election and there is no commission looking into that.

Then there is the Parliament’s defense of itself. After the commission came out with its report, the Parliament voted to fire the Attorney General and all six of the nations Supreme Court Justices involved. There are even calls for the impeachment of President Karzai (who ever said that the Afghans weren’t learning from our politics?).


So, basically you have the executive branch fighting the legislative branch, which is fighting the judiciary. Just a big old ball of dysfunction; the Washington Post is reporting the accused members of Parliament are refusing to relinquish their posts. From that article:

“These people were caught red-handed. They are calling the tribunal illegal, which is absurd,” said Daoud Sultanzoy, a former legislator who led a lawsuit by colleagues who believed they were robbed of their seats in 2010. He said some newly disqualified lawmakers with unsavory pasts had set up armed compounds near the parliament. “They want to threaten the executive and the judiciary, too,” he said. “We cannot let things fall into their hands.”

It is incredibly hard to find a disinterested party in this mess. The man quoted in the paragraph above will be reinstated to parliament if the ousters are completed. The judiciary in Afghanistan is widely seen as a tool of the president, and obviously the members of Parliament who are being pushed out want to keep their positions.

Still this is not that strange a growing pain for nation that is trying to establish a democracy after more than a generation of various forms of one party rule and tribalism. In a nation without an active threat from an insurgency it might be concerning but not critical. Too bad that is not the case in Afghanistan.

All this puts the United States and the Obama Administration in a really crappy position (as if it was not already a shit storm that needed hip waders). One of the things the president said in his withdrawal speech was that while we would not leave Afghanistan in an ideal state it would be stable when we withdraw.

I don’t know about you, but this kind of jockeying for power does not look like it is going to be very stable (or stable at all) any time in the near future. But it could actually make things harder on the US.

What would happen if the Parliament actually got its act together and managed to impeach President Karzai? There would surely be some kind of fight, but that would not be the worst possible outcome. If they removed him, which seems like a good thing given how corrupt he is, there would be a push by those that want to remain in Afghanistan for us to push the timeline for withdrawal out to give the new president time to settle in.

It is hard to know how President Obama would react to that. He has shown a willingness to get out (though not nearly fast enough for most of us) and might just see it as another part of the Afghans working the process of democracy. Or he might be swayed and wind up setting the stage for us to be waging war there long after 2014 when we are supposed to be down to just training staff.

To my mind the whole thing just shows that the futility of our efforts there. We, under the auspices of George W. Bush, set up this corrupt and nepotistic government. That the factions of the nation which has not been united on anything in a long, long time are starting to show can not be a surprise. At this point there is not a lot that we really can do about it. The time to fix this issue would have been in 2005-6, if we had been paying any attention to the nation we conquered and then basically ignored.

The best that we can hope for is that one side or the other wins this fight decisively. No matter which faction wins it is going to be far less than ideal for the Afghan people, as they are still going to have a thuggish and corrupt set of leaders, but a fight that creates a permanent split in the Afghan government only benefits the insurgents in the Taliban.

This is the cautionary tale that anyone who thinks our massive and powerful military is the answer to any problem should learn. Yes, we can topple governments with our military might, but after that it is all likely to go to shit. If you want to be an imperial power you had better be ready to have a lot more of your people under arms than the US has, else you will leave behind only wrecked and ruined nations, not “democratic allies” that we were promised in the Middle East at the start of the Bush administrations military adventurism there.

The floor is yours.