Afghanistan could taint presidency

Freedom New Mexico

Afghanistan, although slightly off the media radar as compared to town halls about health care or the death of Michael Jackson, is shaping up as having more potential to shape perceptions of President Obama’s tenure in office than any other issue.

In contrast to Iraq, the president has taken possession of the war in Afghanistan, making it his own by declaring it is a “necessary war” for the United States to fight.

However, things are not going well, and it is doubtful they will get much better. This is not a matter of tactics or the number of boots on the ground, but of a fundamental misconception of U.S. interests in the area.

Before the Aug. 20 presidential election in Afghanistan, most sympathetic observers believed that whatever the outcome, the important thing was to have a credible election that would lead to a central government that could command the Afghan peoples’ support and respect. That doesn’t seem to be happening.

Turnout was light compared to presidential elections in 2004 and parliamentary elections. Women had voted heavily in those elections, but hardly any voted this time around, not only because of intimidation by the Taliban, which was undoubtedly a factor, but because many believed that voting would make little or no difference.

The election has been marred by allegations of election fraud coming from all sides. Independent election monitors say at least 550 of the 2,000 complaints are worthy of serious investigation. Results so far suggest no candidate will receive a majority so there will be a run-off between incumbent president Hamid Karzai (around 46 percent) and his main challenger Abdullah Abdullah, with just over 31 percent. That will stretch out the period of uncertainty.

A recent ABC-Washington Post poll showed 51 percent of Americans — and 70 percent of Democrats — believe the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting.

We understand. President Obama says the goal of the Afghan war is to prevent al-Qaida from operating bases in the country. But al-Qaida is no longer in Afghanistan; it has reportedly moved to Pakistan. If keeping al-Qaida out of Afghanistan is the point, we can declare victory and leave.

If there are other reasons to fight an apparently endless war in a country that has never desired a strong central government and has a history of resenting foreign occupiers, President Obama needs to explain them.