The political situation in Afghanistan is in disarray after Hamid Karzai’s take of the national vote in the August presidential election was reduced to below 50 percent and U.N.-backed investigators found extensive fraud, which should trigger a run-off election. However, the Karzai government appears to have rejected this next step, creating uncertainty about the way forward. The investigation has also cast a long shadow over Karzai’s legitimacy as Afghan president and American partner. It is crucial that the Afghan legitimacy crisis be resolved for American strategy in Afghanistan to be on solid footing.
While the chaos caused by the electoral fraud casts severe doubts on building up a legitimate and capable Afghan partner that is able to govern the country effectively, conservatives continue to press aggressively for a military solution. Fortunately cooler heads are speaking up, as Senator John Kerry (D-MA) said this past weekend from Afghanistan that “It would be entirely irresponsible for the president of the United States to commit more troops to this country when we don't even have an election finished.”
With much public attention focused on troops in Afghanistan, the Administration and Congress have quietly worked together to forge and implement a new strategy toward Pakistan, whose challenges of extremist groups, poor governance, nuclear weapons, poverty and regional instability pose daunting challenges for the United States and our national security.As Congressional leaders move to ease these tensions, it is critical that the comprehensive strategy keep moving forward, as already exemplified by the work of Special Representative Richard Holbrooke, new support for Pakistan’s civilian authorities and the rule of law, and significant military progress by Pakistanis against the Taliban insurgency and US forces choking Al Qaeda’s ability to operate.
While world attention has waned in recent weeks, the Afghanistan–Pakistan region’s decline has continued. Afghanistan has suffered a spike in violence, which could intensify as the summer continues and the August Presidential elections approach.Yet the debate that is underway offers hope because it returns three factors to the scene that were absent for too much of the last eight years: comprehensive, well-resourced attention to the region; hard questions and meaningful oversight from people inside and outside the Administration; and an approach that goes beyond the application of military force to focus on the core interest of the region’s people – and of the United States.
The situation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region continues to deteriorate, with news in the last week of more attacks on American and NATO supply routes from Pakistan and the Kyrgyz government’s decision to close a key American air base. It is critical that we have a clear strategy for Afghanistan that includes measureable and realistic objectives, and President Obama’s decision to delay the announcement of additional troops into Afghanistan until we have a focused strategy is the right approach.