The recent decision of Hamid Karzai’s main rival for the Afghan presidency, Abdullah Abdullah, to step down from the race casts a spotlight on the entire failure of the US’ aims in invading and then occupying the country.
The goal of the United States in 2001, just as in Iraq in 2003, was never to install a liberal democratic government in Afghanistan. After the brutal manner in which the country has since been occupied, there is simply no possibility of any pro-US regime winning genuine support from the Afghanistani masses. Instead, the only option is to ensure a pro-US government is installed with as far as possible the appearance of democracy.
This appearance fails to include real contests between different political currents, as the last week has demonstrated. The efforts by the US to claim that Abdullah’s withdrawal from the run-off election (that they themselves forced) does not reflect badly on the state of democracy in Afghanistan is lamentable. An unnamed White House official told the Washington Post:
It’s not surprising that he [Abdullah] is not going to contest an election he wasn’t going to win. This is not a challenge in any way to the process of choosing the next Afghan president. This is politics.
It is simply unthinkable that a US official would have said the same of Iran, and the shambles is worth considering alongside the furore over the unproven election fraud in Iran in June of this year, when Western governments were in uproar for months in the hope of furthering political instability and opposition to Ahmadinejad.
With 2009 proving the deadliest year since the invasion for British troops, the failure of NATO forces even to secure free and fair elections cast serious doubt on already negative domestic support for the war effort. Brown will face a further decline in the polls from future decisions to send more soldiers in after President Obama’s fresh deployments.
But a government without political legitimacy is for the West a useless partner for tackling Taliban-inspired insurgents within Afghanistan and Pakistan. Recent events show claims of a democracy in Afghanistan to be nothing but web of lies. Anti-imperialists should be glad that on the political and the military front, the US-led mission in the region is being defeated. But we can take no joy from the fact that whilst they press blindly on, many thousands will join the millions of innocent civilians already dead and injured.