4 Apr 2014

Why we could all pay the price for Afghan election

I hope very much that back in Europe you are enjoying enormously the Afghan election and closely following the result – because you are paying for it.

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Western taxpayers are forking out $100m for this battle between corruption, vote buying and intimidating voters to go to the pools by the various candidates on the one hand – and the mujahedeen fundamentalists on the other intimidating, detonating, shooting and sabotaging the entire process to stop it happening.

The west will take a result – pretty much any result – for its money. Or our money I should say. That’s because it has no plan B at all.

Last time around in 2009 scarcely three million of 14 million eligible voters actually voted and the west duly declared it a valid election (if seriously flawed and fraudulent) for precisely the same reason: no plan B.

This week two of the leading three contenders in the race were found guilty of electoral malpractice before the poll has even happened tomorrow.

One who broke the rules came second in 2009 only to withdraw from the run-off because of – you guessed – corruption.

Read more: only politics can lead a path out of Afghanistan’s darkness

The other was fined 100,000 Afghanis for forcing people to attend his campaign rally in Kandahar. So it goes. No matter. If ever a show must go on, it is this one.

Why? Because there is one thing every single Afghan knows, whatever tribe, ethnicity, sex or religion, from Afghan army generals to the Taliban commanders in Quetta and it is this: if the west stops paying more than a billion dollars a year to fund the Afghan police and army – Afghanistan will disintegrate into far more serious and bloody anarchy in days.


Remember recent history. The myth: Afghanistan fell apart once the Russians pulled out like NATO is now doing. The truth: Afghanistan fell apart several years after the Soviets went, when Moscow turned off the money.

As ever, follow the money and the politics, diplomacy and military will all fall into place.

All the leading candidates, all old, educated men – Dr Abdullah Abdullah, Dr Zalmai Rassoul and Ashraf Ghani, will sign the deal NATO (by which we mean the USA) wants, to leave around 10,000 advisors and some special forces in the country more or less indefinitely.

So that is effectively signed off. Now all the west has to do is get one of said men into the job. It is unlikely any one of the three will get the more than 50 per cent needed for election.

Read more: two foreign journalists shot in Afghanistan – one dead

So another round will likely happen with two of these front runners and you can expect a new president in August.

It will be the first time power has changed hands in Afghanistan democratically.

It will not change hands peacefully since there is a civil war going on here no matter how much the west prefers to ignore it.


Nor will it be a very free or very fair election. Tribal pressure, bribery, false and destroyed ballots and general fraud will ensure many votes are dubious on the one hand.

Equally thousands, possibly millions, will be too intimidated in the countryside by the mujahedeen to vote at all.

As ever, security prevents much meaningful media coverage outside Kabul. Beamed around the world will be happy queues of Kabulis – all well and good so far as it goes.

The huge mistake is repeated by western commentators ad infinitum which is to judge Afghanistan is if it were Kabul.

Read more: Afghanistan war: the sons of Stonecutter Street

Would one judge Britain by its least representative city, London? Or judge the USA by Washington – the least typical city in the entire union?

But the fault for that lies in good measure with the mujahedeen whose stone-age habit of kidnapping journalists is perhaps the single most serious own-goal of their entire war. They never seem to learn.

So enjoy your election in all its colour, noise, excitement and yes, valid democratic exercise up to a limited point.

Then when it is all over, see if western governments live up to their promises to go on funding security here when most of their own soldiers are long gone.

Watch Washington carefully where patience is all but running out and the civilian aid budget was ominously slashed in half by a fed-up congress only a few weeks ago.

If they fail in that – this election will have been wasted, as will every drop of foreign blood spilled here in 13 years of violent Western occupation.

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