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Legitimacy Questions in Afghanistan

Afghanistan's planned November 7 presidential runoff was supposed to help confer more legitimacy to a marred presidential election on August 20,and its assumed winner, incumbent Hamid Karzai. But with the withdrawal of chief opponent Abdullah Abdullah and Karzai now declared the winner, the Afghan government's credibility as a U.S. partner could be under a lengthening shadow. Much analysis is focusing on how Karzai can muster legitimacy, and the extent to which that matters. The circumstances of the runoff, many analysts point out, had already heightened the challenges for U.S. President Barack Obama as he prepares to decide soon on a military strategy that could involve an influx of tens of thousands more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. The New York Times' David Sanger writes today that even Obama's most modest aims in Afghanistan "require a legitimate government in Kabul, one with the authority to manage the army and to rebuild an incompetent and corrupt police force. It also needs the ability to install competent governors and spend Western aid effectively."

Even before the latest turn of events, there were numerous suggestions from Western analysts on how to proceed with a presumed Karzai government. Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution said in addition to attacking corruption, Karzai needs to demonstrate less favoritism to his fellow Durrani tribesman, "fire a few of the worst apples from his national and regional governments, and spread the benefits of the country's wealth (or more accurately, the international aid effort) more evenly to include more of the Ghilzai tribe (the core of the Taliban)."

CFR Senior Fellow Daniel Markey, just returned from the region, says U.S. officials he spoke with will aim to expand relations beyond Karzai to local level officials, such as governors and provincial leader, to "find people...

Continue reading at CFR.org →

 
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