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Afghan President Karzai registers for re-election

Associated Press Writers

Embattled leader names current vice president Karim Khalili and former vice president Mohammad Qasim Fahim as his two running mates. ...Read the full article

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  1. Richard Roskell from Naramata, Canada writes:

    And, boys and girls, he will be elected president again.
  2. Stude Ham from Canada writes:
    the democratic process never envisaged its perversion through a process that allowed for highly corrupt candidates on the ballot.

    karzai is as democratic an option as the north korean president.

    CANADA - GET OUT OF AFGHANISTAN NOW!

  3. Did you Know Canada?!? from Canada writes: The election should be nationwide not just in Kabul like the last time.
  4. Nick Wright from Halifax, Canada writes: What an amazingly bland piece of reporting by writers with either zero curiosity about the subject or a mandate to pass this turn of events off as quietly as possible.

    What we are seeing is the end of the democracy experiment in Afghanistan and the reassertion of traditional Afghan methods of ruling, nothing less.

    Most of Afghanistan's warlords and strongmen have met behind closed doors to determine which person (Karzai), who in this case has legitimacy among the international community, will be set up as a figurehead leader. In exchange for central government concessions and guarantees on their smuggling and drug businesses, and on preserving their personal militias, the strongmen will herd their dependent villagers to the polls, where they will vote as instructed (or else).

    A few of the luminaries making deals with Karzai:

    Gul Agha Sherzai, a Pashtun, who just withdrew his name as a presidential candidate over the past weekend, governed Kandahar province from 1992 until 1994; he was regarded as one of the most vicious among a vicious group of warlords. In a May 2008 G&M article by Doug Saunders, Sherzai "admitted to receiving $1-million a week from his share of import duties and from the opium trade, and was considered violent and dangerous."

    Mohammad Qasim Fahim, a Tajik, is Karzai's running mate in this election. As leader of the Northern Alliance after Massoud was assassinated in 2001, he was considered more powerful than Karzai in the post-911 transition period. As a major anti-Soviet mujahideen leader, he was appointed the Defense Minister during the transitional period. However, he maintains a huge personal militia of northern fighters and was sidelined by Karzai after the 2004 election as a deadly rival for power. The Coalition countries regard him as the single biggest obstacle to disarming Afghan militias.
  5. Nick Wright from Halifax, Canada writes: The end of the "democracy" experiment may not be a bad thing. It was always a figleaf in any case for the Americans' chosen figurehead leader and their warlord proxies who could be counted on to fight the Taliban (but who were regarded as war criminals by the Afghan people).

    I can't believe that any responsible person in Coalition governments seriously believed that a country with 90% illiteracy, a feudal society based entirely on tribal allegiances, and a leadership class made up of vicious Islamic fundamentalist warlords who depend on the drug industry and smuggling would become a democracy in our lifetimes.

    Hopefully what will happen instead is that Karzai will form a traditional central government of consensus, with representation from all areas and ethnic groups. This was the mixture that some of the warlords in the 1990's fighting wanted to achieve, but were thwarted by the likes of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who wanted power only for himself. One sure result of such a setup will be that the Taliban are invited to the table as a constituency of the Southern and Eastern Pashtuns. My guess is that President Obama will get on board with such a setup--under strong conditions regarding al Qaeda, emancipation of women, and education for girls.

    On the other hand, maybe this political arrangement marks Afghanistan's final descent into being a narco-state, with the warlords/opium cartel consolidating their power behind Karzai as a figurehead.

    If the latter is the unhappy truth, the Coalition countries will have some serious and long-term decisions to make about whether to continue to support such an arrangement or to seek to undermine it and start all over again with nation-building in Afghanistan.

    If it is the former, the Coalition should do everything in its power to help (not dictate) and to avoid making things worse by perpetuating violence and insecurity.
  6. Catherine Medernach from Winnipeg, Canada writes: Did you Know Canada - the last Presidential election was NOT just in Kabul. It was a country wide election. In fact, if my memory is correct, Karzai did not win in Kabul itself.

    What will be interesting is to see who, if anyone actually files to run against Karzai in this election. One of the reasons he was the interim leader prior to being elected is because many of those who might have been viable options were killed.

    It seems the Taliban are still striking 'soft' targets like the mayor that was killed by one of their latest attacks. They are determined to disrupt the political process as much as possible. Hopefully the additional troops being deployed will ensure a more secure environment by fall: Britain is sending additional troops to cover the election period; Canada is overlapping two deployments in order to have additional boots on the ground; and then there is the addition of 17,000 US combat troops (and 4,000) trainers. Hopefully there will be more trained ANA as well.
  7. Ron MacGillivray from Flatbush, ab, Canada writes: Nick Wright from Halifax "Most of Afghanistan's warlords and strongmen have met behind closed doors to determine which person (Karzai), who in this case has legitimacy among the international community, will be set up as a figurehead leader. In exchange for central government concessions and guarantees on their smuggling and drug businesses, and on preserving their personal militias, the strongmen will herd their dependent villagers to the polls, where they will vote as instructed (or else)..."

    This is an amazingly good analysis of the current political process in A'stan. Change a few of the names and labels and this could be used to desribe almost any western-style democracy.
  8. Nick Wright from Halifax, Canada writes: Catherine: Karzai got 53% of the vote in Kabul province; I haven't seen a breakdown by city (see the 2004 election results site at http://tinyurl.com/d8uxfd). His vote would have been higher, except Kabul was run by Tajiks of the Northern Alliance, who took over the city (and all the important government posts) after the Taliban were driven out in 2001. Tajik Yonous Qanooni came second with 20%. Afghans voted almost entirely along ethnic lines in 2004.

    Karzai got 55.4% of the national vote after a one-month campaign in which he had a huge advantage in resources due to his support by the occupation.

    Genuinely free voting in 2004 was pretty much limited to the few cities; many Afghans--who were ignorant about democracy and about what was going on in Kabul--voted as instructed or paid to by their leaders. The warlords held onto power through the election process (and through deals with the U.S. and Karzai), and they are doing it again. Dostum will rule the Uzbeks, Mohaqiq the Hazaras, and Qanooni the Tajiks, etc. None of the above are running against Karzai this time because 1) they don't want to lose face by losing again and 2) they don't have to in order to maintain their power bases; they just cut deals with Karzai and push him out in front.
  9. Catherine Medernach from Winnipeg, Canada writes: The wild card in this election is Dr. Abdullah, the country's former foreign minister - providing he if fact does decide to run. We should know by the end of the week if any others are going to take up the challenge. In a country where many people are still unfamiliar with the election process - and where anybody supporting the government, never mind running for election, is automatically a target for the Taliban - I can see how few people would be prepared to take the risks.

    Part of what needs to happen this summer is the disarming of the old militia groups that the US has been maintaining for their own reasons. They can always join the ANA if they want to fight the Taliban - or join the ANP although they tend to be targeted by the Taliban as well. The best hope is that with extra trainers as well as troops the situation will improve prior to the election.

    Ron MacGillivray - so true. Most of the political decisions made today are made in the back rooms by the 'in crowd'.
  10. J S from Canada writes: Several comments here that link the Taliban to drugs. I remind these people that before the US led invasion the Taliban had almost erradicated the country of poppy production. Poppy production grew exponentially AFTER the US led invasion. If we wanted to keep heroin off the streets across the world we would have left the Taliban alone. As it is now, there is so much opium on the world market that it's lost value, making it even more dangerous as the street price comes down. We can thank our own forces for providing the environment where poppy growth and drug production flourishes.

    By the way, is anyone looking for Bin Laden? It's been almost 8 years and no one even talks about him anymore. Wasn't he the purpose of this war? Haven't heard much about Al Qida either. Are they still around? Is anyone looking for them? I find it funny how the whole mission and the target changed after the invasion began...
  11. all canadian all american from USA sector of, Canada writes:
    "Karzai's popularity has waned somewhat in recent years"

    His time is up, afghanistan will be a war zone for years, if not decades to come, call it democracy, theocracy or aristocracy, whatever you want, capitalism is doomed.
  12. Catherine Medernach from Winnipeg, Canada writes: Nick Wright - re your contention that voting was limited to the few cities - it was not. Even Afghans in refugee camps had the opportunity to vote.

    J S from Canada -"the Taliban had almost eradicated the country of poppy production." not true though many have bought the story. After an initial cutback the poppy crop grew a lot under the Taliban as they needed the income. They had banned marijuana because the local used it - but the mullahs said growing poppies was okay because the opium was only used by the Westerners and would hurt them. The Taliban also developed the trucking system that was used to transport the opium and taxed every load. It was only in the last year (2001) that a ban was put on poppies (there was plenty of opium stockpiled anyway) in order to gain the Afghan seat at the UN that they were being denied and international recognition as the government of Afghanistan that had only been provided by 3 countries.
  13. Nick Wright from Halifax, Canada writes: Catherine: You misunderstood what I said: I said "Genuinely free voting in 2004 was pretty much limited to the few cities." Voting in the countryside was largely unfree in the sense that many villagers voted for whoever they were told to vote for by their leaders; others were paid to vote. In general, they voted for the candidate of their own ethnicity, regardless of political platform. Ninety percent of Afghans are incapable of reading an election poster. In all, about 8 million Afghans voted out of a total population of around 30 million.
  14. Nick Wright from Halifax, Canada writes: Catherine: In responding to JS you contradict yourself. He said the Taliban all but stopped poppy production. He/she is correct; they did so in 2001 (as you acknowledged), in order to gain international legitimacy, and there is no reason to believe the ban wouldn't have continued if the U.S. hadn't invaded and reinstalled the Northern Alliance, who got right back to work producing poppy again. The claim that "there was plenty of opium stockpiled anyway" is unproven propaganda that is used irresponsibly to undermine the notion that the Taliban are anything other than demonic.
  15. Richard Roskell from Naramata, Canada writes:
    Yup, in 2001 Afghanistan was poppy-free in all areas under Taliban control. That's as in 'eradicated', full stop. The only poppy still being grown in Afghanistan was in the small portion of the country still under the control of the Northern Alliance.
  16. Merely an Observer from Canada writes: Here's an interesting story from 2001 to put your "'eradicated', full stop." in perspective, go to: http://www.news24.com/News24/Archive/0,,2-1659_1096381,00.html "Production of opium and heroine has boomed as farmers abandoned traditional crops such as wheat and maize for the cultivation of more lucrative poppy seeds, the basis of opium and heroine. In 2000 the poppy production rose by more than half to 3 656 tons from 2 200 tons in 1998, according to figures from the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP)." "In 2001 poppy production fell by 74 tons after Mullah Mohammad Omar, the head of the Taliban, unexpectedly banned the cultivation of the plant in July 2000, according to the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)..... The poppy was eradicated on more than 75 000 hectares, UNDCP observers say, although opium stocks have not been destroyed. The stocks alone represent three years of production and have a street value close to €4.57 billion (30 billion francs), one specialist said. The drug monitoring body, Observatoire geopolitique des drogues (OGD), said in a report published in April 2000 that the Taliban had benefited from "narcoprofits". They required poppy farms to pay them a tax of 12.5%, it said." (more to follow...)
  17. Merely an Observer from Canada writes: (post continues...) http://www.news24.com/News24/Archive/0,,2-1659_1096381,00.html "The fundamentalist Afghan militia also taxed laboratories $70 (€77.5) per kilogram of heroine produced and $250 was levied on each kilogram during transportation. The OGD estimated, for example, that the production, transformation and traffic of drugs earned the Taliban $75 million in 1997. With the fall of Afghan production, the price of a kilogram of opium had climbed in recent months on the Afghan-Pakistan border, jumping from $44 in 2000 to $400 before the September 11 attacks in the United States. After the attacks the price of opium had nearly doubled to $746, according to the DEA." Let's see: -a 12.5% tax on the poppy farms -a tax on labs -a tax on transport -three years of opium stockpiled -a reduction of 74 tons (after an increase from 2 200 to 3 656 tons) Yup, sure looks like the taleban had everything under control all right! And the slight reduction of opium (in conjunction with maintaining a stockpile) seems ENTIRELY coincidental. LOL, "'eradicated', full stop." indeed!
  18. Merely an Observer from Canada writes: Further food for thought from The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/press/releases/2008-11-27.html "Drugs finance Taliban war machine, says UN drug tsar But opium becoming less important to Afghan economy LONDON, 27 November 2008. The Afghan Opium Survey 2008 released today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) shows that opium has become less important to the Afghan economy due to a decrease in cultivation, production and prices. However, opium finances the Taliban war economy and is a major source of revenue for criminal groups and terrorists."..... ""With so much drug-related revenue, it is not surprising that the insurgents' war machine has proven so resilient, despite the heavy pounding by Afghan and allied forces", said the Executive Director of UNODC, Antonio Maria Costa. He also pointed to the danger of opium stocks held by the Taliban. "For a number of years, Afghan opium production has exceeded world demand. The bottom should have fallen out of the opium market, but it hasn't. So where is the missing opium?" said Mr. Costa. "Lack of price response in the opium market can only be the result of stock build-ups, and all evidence points to the Taliban". The UN's top drug control official suggested that ongoing efforts by the Taliban to manipulate the opium market may result in less opium in 2009. "Since they are hoarding opium, they have the most to gain from lower cultivation. This would drive up prices, and result in a re-evaluation of their stocks", said Mr. Costa." Yup, sure shows a dedication to the taliban principal of 'eradicated', full stop.
  19. Nick Wright from Halifax, Canada writes: Merely an Observer: I wrote a brief response a while ago, but it didn't make it through for some reason.

    A few points: It is common knowledge that the Taliban benefited from opium production in regions they controlled before 2001, and they are profiting again today. It's a simple fact that they did drastically curb production in 2001 in order to gain international legitimacy as the de-facto government of Afghanistan. No one denies it.

    Afghan farmers started switching to poppy in the 1990s--long before the Taliban--because it was the only cash crop that would grow under severe drought conditions. In addition, factional fighting among warlords prevented aid agencies from delivering much-needed grain seeds and fertilizer to remote farms. In short, the already dirt-poor farmers were desperate, and many turned to poppy, reluctantly, and against Islam, simply in order to survive.

    The Taliban quelled factional fighting and made the country safe again for international aid agencies to resume operations. The irony is that international sanctions against the Taliban from 1998 onward replaced factional fighting as the reason aid agencies couldn't deliver seed and fertilizer, even though the Taliban wanted the agencies to provide aid where they couldn't.

    Immediately after the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, poppy production grew massively, both in quantity produced and in area under cultivation. Poppy production is still rampant in most of the country today, although it has diminished in some of the northern provinces. Its persistence has far more to do with the people in power in the central and provincial governments profiting from it than the Taliban.
  20. Catherine Medernach from Winnipeg, Canada writes: Most farmers in the north switched to other crops fairly quickly. The repair of irrigation systems in Kandahar has also led to bumper crops of other commodities. A field that has lain fallow was used for other crops as was a field that had been used for growing marijuana. Wheat was grown and supplied Afghan bakeries. This use of other fields prior focusing on destroying the poppy crop has left some farmers less reliant on poppies and has also gained some respect for Canadians.

    Of course one one of the worst areas is Maywand where the Taliban have made any progress difficult - including getting food aid into the area. That is also an area where there is expected to be an increase in US (and British) troops as it borders on Kandahar and Helmand. It has been a problem for the CF from day one as they prepared for the arrival of Dutch and British troops.

    It will be a long difficult summer trying to increase security and restructuring prior to the election.
  21. Merely an Observer from Canada writes: Nick Wright, respectfully I feel that I must disagree with your assertion that "there is no reason to believe the ban wouldn't have continued"; based on their past performance and the " fact that they did drastically curb production in 2001 in order to gain international legitimacy", (a point which is entirely valid). In conjunction with a 12.5% tax on the poppy farms -a tax on labs -a tax on transport -three years of opium stockpiled -a reduction of 74 tons (after an increase from 2 200 to 3 656 tons), the taleban could hardly seem benevolent, and by the way, it's UNDCP observers which make the claim that the heroin wasn't destroyed, so I wouldn't necessarily discount their report as mere propaganda. Therefore, while opium production IS still a major stumbling block in developing Afghanistan's economy and security (and no,I don't claim to have all the answers), it would be foolhardy (as some would suggest) to have people belive that: "in 2001 Afghanistan was poppy-free in all areas under Taliban control. That's as in 'eradicated', full stop. The only poppy still being grown in Afghanistan was in the small portion of the country still under the control of the Northern Alliance."
  22. Nick Wright from Halifax, Canada writes: Catherine: "Of course one one of the worst areas is Maywand." "Of course"?? That is one of the problems of copying and pasting from NATO propaganda, you get the occasional non-sequitur ;-)

    Poppy production in the north only decrease noticeably in 2008, and that was mostly because the endless drought finally made even poppy cultivation impossible; a relative few of the farmers decided to simply change crops--mostly due to religious reasons, combined with higher prices for licit crops.

    Nevertheless, while most poppy cultivation is concentrated in the southern and southwestern provinces of Farah, Nimroz, Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul, the far more lucrative work of drug processing and smuggling extends well beyond the poppy-growing provinces to those provinces bordering the Central Asian States, Iran and Pakistan, which provide the major export routes for finished heroin.

    The military goal of "separating the farmers from the Taliban" will be extremely difficult, for the simple reason that many of the farmers are already at least Taliban sympathisers, if not insurgents themselves. Killing large numbers of people defending poppy fields--as the American "surge" is now doing--will only alienate ordinary Afghans even further.

    The fact is that most of the current reduction in poppy cultivation is due to factors outside anti-narcotics policy, and it will likely increase again if wheat prices go down or the drought eases.

    The best way to end poppy production is to end the need for illicit financing, and that means finding an alternative to military means of ending the insurgency. It's time for brains, not brawn.
  23. Nick Wright from Halifax, Canada writes: Merely an Observer: I agree. I think the only helpful reason for citing the Taliban's clampdown on poppy production in 2001 is to show that they could be influenced to change their policies if they could be persuaded that it was in their interest. They really did want to be seen as a legitimate government. We will never know what persuasion as an alternative to force would have accomplished with them after they had finished pacifying and disarming the squabbling factions, because the U.S.-based campaign to demonize them was so successful, and the U.S.-provoked invasion stopped everything.

    One question I have never seen answered is: What would the Taliban have done to help the farmers after they forbade them to grow poppy? (a question that has plagued ISAF). The problems of starvation and drought would still have been in there to be dealt with. We'll never know, but the need for aid and reconstruction could have been a powerful lever for getting the international community back into the country after years of civil war.
  24. Catherine Medernach from Winnipeg, Canada writes: Nick Wright - As a rule I don't "cut and paste" and did not cut & paste the statement you are referring to.

    By 2001 the Taliban had forced the UN aid organizations out of Afghanistan along with many others. They also barred aid for people who were freezing and starving. BTW Afghanistan also has its own drug interdiction forces being trained by Blackwater so it is not simply NATO forces that are dealing with the drug issue. CF have been working to find ways to use fallow fields etc. and repair irrigation to promote the growth of other crops rather than going in and destroying crops. They also look for ways to employ people once the poppies have been harvested to keep them from joining the Taliban and have met with some success with these tier 2 fighters as they call them (not committed Taliban). The Taliban has consistently tried to disrupt aid and reconstruction projects and undermine any progress being made - and it sure is not because they 'care' about the people.
  25. Merely an Observer from Canada writes: Well well, Richard "'eradicated', full stop" Roskell's silence certainly speaks volumns!

    Sure hates it when his delusions are nullified.

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