Afghan Government “Legitimacy” is Critical to U.S. Imperialism
Posted on October 23, 2009
By Kenneth J. Theisen
On October 20, 2009 Afghan President Hamid Karzai agreed to a November 7th run-off presidential election after almost a third of the votes he received in an earlier August 20th vote were deemed to be fraudulent by election investigators with the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission.
Karzai did not do this willingly, but under pressure from the U.S. and its allies he had very little choice. But did the U.S. apply this pressure because its leaders have suddenly come to feel that the people of a country should choose its own rulers in fair elections? Or did the U.S. act to achieve its imperialist goals in Afghanistan that were jeopardized by such an obviously fraudulent election?
To set the record straight, U.S. imperialism has a long history of fixing foreign elections or overturning fair elections by force when this has served imperialist interests. Just a few examples prove this. In both Italy and Japan, the CIA spent millions of dollars in several elections to guarantee that pro-U.S. parties achieved electoral victory. In Iran, Guatemala, and Chile, the U.S. sponsored coups to oust elected nationalist governments and installed imperialist subservient fascist governments in their places.
In Vietnam in the 1950s the U.S. made sure there would not be a nation-wide vote because they knew anti-imperialist forces would win. The U.S. ignored the Geneva Accords which called for an election and the result was the killing of millions of Vietnamese. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg, but they are sufficient to show that fair elections have nothing to do with U.S. motivation in Afghanistan.
But the U.S. does need a “credible” election process in Afghanistan. It needs enough of the Afghan population to believe that “their” government is “legitimate.” It also needs to have Americans and others believe this as well if it is to achieve at least minimal support for its war of terror there. Obama has already drastically escalated the Afghan war since taking office. This has not been popular with the American public with polls showing the majority no longer support the Afghan war. His administration appears to be set to approve another large increase of troops to be sent there, but if the Karzai puppet government lacks credibility this will make the move much harder for the administration. This is why Obama’s administration put so much pressure on Karzai. Obama wants to pretend that his administration is really interested in establishing “democracy” while building the Afghan nation.
It needs to be emphasized that regardless of the outcome of the run-off election, the resulting Afghan government will still be a puppet government dependent on U.S. imperialism for its very survival. The strings will still be pulled in Washington and the government will act in the interests of U.S. imperialism. The credibility that the U.S. hopes to give to the Afghan government with elections is meant only to be an illusion that the Afghan government is independent, not to truly make it independent.
Since the October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan the U.S. has had a difficult time convincing the Afghan people and the people of the world that the Karzai government is the legitimate government of Afghanistan. Karzai was handpicked by the U.S. and installed in Kabul shortly after the election. Since his installation he has received 24/7 protection from either U.S. forces or U.S. paid mercenaries. His government is composed of war and drug lords who rule various parts of the country as feudal fiefdoms.
Many of these so-called leaders were on the CIA payroll during the Soviet-Afghan War. They later received U.S. funding in the war against the Taliban. Karzai’s administration is so corrupt that even the U.S. State Department has had to admit this in its annual reports. His government’s human rights record is also the subject of condemnation from not only the State Department, but domestic and international human rights groups too.
Drugs are Afghanistan’s number one export and the government is dependent on international aid for its budget. Karzai is often referred to as the “Mayor of Kabul” because his political authority does not reach outside of the capital. But Karzai is the best puppet that the U.S. imperialists have so far been able to produce.
Elections and the U.S. military have been used until now to confer “legitimacy” on the Karzai government. But the most recent election was transparently fraudulent and to allow the result to stand puts U.S. efforts in jeopardy. That is why the U.S. has intensified pressure on Karzai to agree to new elections. The most recent pressure was applied in a visit by Senator John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who served as imperialist messenger for President Obama. Kerry met with Obama at least five times after arriving in Afghanistan before Karzai bowed to U.S. wishes.
Obama virtually admitted that Kerry was acting on his behalf when he stated, ““I want to commend Senator Kerry, who was in the region traveling and … was extraordinarily constructive and very helpful. He deserves great congratulations.”
Kerry delivered the message that the Obama administration would not announce any additional troops for deployment in Afghanistan until there was a “legitimate” government in the country. Now Obama may have to delay the troop announcement decision until after the November election results have been declared. But there is no guarantee that the new election will be any more credible than the August election.
Kerry alluded to this at a press conference on October 20th, when he said, “The challenges of holding this election in an incredibly difficult security environment cannot be overstated…The international community is committed to carry out this election … and to make the run-off a success.” In other words, the U.S. can not afford to have another obviously rigged election at this time. Abdullah Abdullah would be Karzai’s rival in this new election.
The long-awaited troop announcement decision could result in Obama sending between 10,000 and 60,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, but any delay in the announcement could also delay deployment. The opposition forces have been making advancements against U.S. forces and their allies and a delay in deployment could make the situation worse for the U.S. imperialists.
Because an election will not necessarily solve the problems of making the Afghan government appear as legitimate, there is still a possibility that there will not be a new election, but rather some sort of power sharing deal between the Karzai and Abdullah factions. While agreeing to a new election, Karzai left this option on the table. On October 20th he indicated he would accept a “unity government.”
This could somewhat ameliorate ethnic tensions that were aroused by the fraudulent election. Karzai is a Pashtun and Abdullah is a Tajik. The Pashtun community is primarily in the south and the Tajik community is mainly located in the north. If there is another fraudulent election the ethnic rivalries would undoubtedly be exacerbated. A unity government could possibly avoid this. But there is no guarantee that a unity government could even be formed or that it would not quickly dissolve as the factions fight over the crumbs given to them by the imperialists. Because of this it is likely that elections will go forward.
Abdullah is not Karzai, but he is acceptable to the U.S. imperialists as a new puppet leader should he win the new election. He previously served in the Karzai government. He is a member of a religious feudal family that served the Afghan monarchy. He was an aide to Ahmad Shah Massoud, known as the “Lion of Panjshir." The more popular Massoud was an anti-Soviet jihadist and the chief figure in the Northern Alliance which has received extensive U.S. funding. He was assassinated in 2001 by al-Qaeda. After Karzai agreed to a new election, President Obama called Abdullah to congratulate him according to Abdullah.
But whoever “wins” the election is expected to be a junior “partner” of the U.S. imperialists. Before Kerry “convinced” Karzai to agree to a new vote, he said this, “I think this is a moment for President Karzai, frankly, to step up and help to share with the world a better vision for how the government here is going to deliver and be a full partner." Although he did not say so, this was a message to both candidates to go along with the senior partner – U.S. imperialism.
No matter how the U.S. resolves its problems regarding the “legitimacy” of the puppet government in Afghanistan, it is clear that the U.S. is intent on escalating the war there. It needs the Afghan government to appear to be legitimate in order to more efficiently carry out this war. This perceived “legitimacy” is critical to mobilizing support for the U.S. war in Afghanistan, in the U.S. and throughout the world. Whether Karzai or Abdullah wins the upcoming election, it will make no difference to the Afghan people. They will still be victims in the war between the U.S. imperialists and the reactionary forces aligned around the Taliban and al Queda. Neither they nor we have any interests in supporting either side of this imperialist war.