More votes than voters

Written By: - Date published: 11:00 am, September 2nd, 2009 - 11 comments
Categories: afghanistan, International - Tags:

The Economist has an article on the recent election in New Zealand’s current region of conflict – Afghanistan.

The title of the article says it all really, so that is the title of the post. But here are a selection of depressing quotes from the article to make people realize why this is currently a conflict with no perceptible realistic outcome.

Across Kabul, turnout was sluggish. But at Haji Janat Gul the lack of voters had not dented the tally of votes. Only an hour after voting began, 6,000 had been cast. Yet not a voter was in sight. Staff insisted that the 6,000 had all come at 7am, when polls opened: ‘The Taliban said that they would cut off the fingers of people voting so they came early.’

This was impossible. Typically it takes four minutes to vote. For 6,000 to have voted in an hour at the 12 ballot boxes, they would have had an average of seven seconds each. The Electoral Complaints Commission later received allegations that the ballot boxes had been stuffed for President Hamid Karzai before polls opened, at the instigation of a local MP and tribal leader.


Indeed some unstable areas have returned more votes than early estimates of turnout would suggest. In Helmand, for instance, Western officials believe that in the district of Garmser about 5,000 people voted. But the ballot boxes arriving in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, contain about 20,000. In Musa Qala the discrepancy was between 9,000 and 18,000. Mr Hadee, the IEC official, now says that turnout in Helmand was 25%. Some Western officials reckon 20% of votes nationally may be fraudulent.

This feels like the Vietnam war all over again. NZ is sending combat troops in to support a government made up of warlords and corrupt politicians. At present we seem to be doing it at the behest of a US administrations which have little or no idea about what they are trying to achieve. The Economist leader says “Helping build a credible government is as important as fighting the Taliban“, but there appears to be little effort by anyone to make that happen.

The US general commanding the NATO operation in Afghanistan seems to have the same issues about the mission. He is calling for a new strategy. About the only good news is that the Taliban leadership in their base in the tribal areas of Pakistan are playing a robust game of internal politics. However that will make little difference to the turmoil and insurrection inside Afghanistan where the insurrection appears to be very locally organized.

Our soldiers and civilians who are there will be doing a good job, as they always do. The question really is one of the politics of outcomes. To date, John Key and Murray McCully have not managed to articulate any vision about why we’re sending troops to Afghanistaniania (as John Key helpfully renamed the country).

Murray McCully in a recent and dreadfully uninspiring speech in the house seemed to say that the reason we’re there to protect our tourists from terrorism. But that merely fits with his usual style of convoluted and ineffectual logic. He also said that we’d be withdrawing the military component from protecting the civilian component over the next 3 to 5 years. That hardly seems likely if we’re trying to help to move a country from this type of election to stability over the same time period. It is simply fatuous waffle.

The government needs to articulate a clear understanding of why we have a presence in Afghanistan and what we hope to achieve there. It has to have more substance than simply greasing up to the US for trade concessions. The last government did articulate a far better rationale and took actions consistent with it, including withdrawing the SAS when they were not required. A lack of a clear rationale will cause a widespread movement to pull both the infrastructure mission and troops out when we get a body bag arriving home.

I support our continued presence in Afghanistan for a number of reasons. However brown-nosing the US for trade reasons is not one of them. To date McCully does not seem to have a better reason for putting our people in danger for.

PS: Could his minders also get John Key a simple book on the country and force him to read it. It is embarrassing to explain to people that this in fact our PM when he doesn’t seem to know bugger all about where our troops are going into combat there.

11 comments on “More votes than voters”

  1. Bill 1

    Pepe Escobar. Google him. Read his pipelineistan pieces.

    You say, “At present we seem to be doing it at the behest of a US administrations which have little or no idea about what they are trying to achieve.”

    Not true. The US knows damned fine well what it is trying to achieve in Afghanistan. They just ain’t saying is all. Read the Escobar articles from the Asian Times.

    • lprent 1.1

      Problem is that having vast semi-secret plans doesn’t wash any more. “Trust me” without information went out with the cold-war.

      Military in all countries are quite aware of that. You don’t win wars without having support on the home front. That is the job of the politicians.

      You don’t get that in the absence of information unless the politicos have
      1. credibility to say that they know and understand and trust the military plan..
      2. communicate that effectively to the population..
      3. give some kind of idea about what the political objectives are..

      I’m afraid that does not exist from here with us looking at the absolute cock-up that Bush and Blair made in Iraq starting with lying their way into an extremely stupid war. The current administration in the US doesn’t look like they know what outcomes they’re trying to realistically get in Afghanistan – or they’re not communicating it.

      With our own current crop of government, they aren’t exactly people that inspire trust that they know what in the hell is going on.

      Having such a screwup of a government in Afghanistan tends to indicate that it is as much a problem for stabilizing the country as the Taliban are.

      Some clarity of vision is required to be communicated. Otherwise it looks like another interminable war with no foreseeable outcome. That doesn’t help the military effort

      • Bill 1.1.1

        The politicians, corporations and the higher echelons of the military know that Afghanistan is about oil and gas pipelines from the Caspian going west rather than east (China) or north (Russia).

        There is no secret as such.

        The line for public consumption though, because it garners public support…or has until now, is ‘War on Terror’ and ‘Democracy’ and so on. The cartwheels the spin machine is going to have to turn when they finally and inevitably sit down for discussions with the Taliban again over pipeline fees etc should be interesting.

  2. sk 2

    The problem is that very little thought has gone into it. The Prime Minister has no personal experience in South Asia, and the nuances of the ethnic mix that makes up Afghanistan is beyond him. Do you think he spoke with the Indians on what is actually happening in Afghanistan, or did we just rely on flawed US, UK and Australian intelligence?

    Yet again the west has intervened in a civil war (as in Vietnam) but it is actually worse than Vietnam. At least Vietnam was not an ethnic conflict, which is exactly what Afghanistan is.

    Leave the book, just someone send him the DVD of ‘Kite Runner . . . ‘

  3. Ianmac 3

    It does seem common for new democracies to be seized by rigged ballots. And it seems that “they” get away with it because they can. Makes me pleased that our ballots are almost foolproof and clean. All we have to be is vigilant about how the candidates are promoted and who pays to back them.

  4. Stacktwo 4

    The New York Times has a relevant story on this today. Sorry I can’t link it properly:

  5. BLiP 5

    Of course the US is going to allow the rigging of the Afghanistan election, but only so long as the rigging is done by their own puppets. Just look what happened the last time the US actually let a democratic election occur . They had to go to the trouble of getting the elected government overtly destabilised and rendered worse than useless.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      Yeah, that always disgusted me that and showed up the full support for democracy that the US has – ie, none.

      US to Palestinians Have elections.
      Palestinians w00t (elects Hamas)
      US You elected someone we don’t like therefore we’re not going to recognise your government.
      Palestinians WTF?

  6. Iprent,

    For the sake of clarity. You state that you have several reasons for New Zealand to be present in Afghanistan.
    What would those reasons be?

    • BLiP 6.1

      Perhaps, play along with the big game to prevent being identified as an “enemy state” and run the risk of even further covert US manipulation of our politics? I’ve come to accept that we must at appear to be on side and “render unto Ceasar” so as to protect Aotearoa not from Islamic extremists but from the US terrorism.

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