Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Afghan Elections Topic On Paltalk

This week's Afghan election, which saw during campaigning U.S.-style televised debates, will likely be a referendum of sorts on the U.S. involvement in that nation as much as on who becomes the next president.

Ostensibly the United States entered Afghanistan to search and destroy Osama bin Laden and his cronies. But the mission, which President Obama insists is unavoidable and has U.S. national security implications (sounds a lot like President Bush's rhetoric re: Iraq, doesn't it?) is, at least right now, focused on protecting the electoral process.

Meanwhile, there have been allegations of ballot tampering ahead of the vote. The presidential complex has been attacked. And the question of what will happen if a Taliban-leaning president is elected has been raised.

Joining us on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com tomorrow to help analyze all of this will be the Cato Institute's Malou Innocent, who observes that the atmosphere surrounding Afghanistan's presidential elections is analogous to the country as a whole: dysfunctional.

Innocent, a foreign policy analyst and author of an upcoming Cato white paper, "Escaping the Graveyard of Empires: A Strategy to Exit Afghanistan" says it is doubtful the Afghan elections will be a watershed moment for liberal democracy in a country that has never had a strong central government. Regardless of who wins, all politics is, she notes, local in Afghanistan. Many Afghans feel alienated from the central government, particularly in the restive southern and eastern provinces and some even believe that their next president has already been chosen by Washington.

Candidates are forging alliances with warlords; tribal elders are being offered jobs, territory, and forgiveness of past sins; and Taliban militants threaten to cut off fingers marked with purple ink used to indicate when someone casts a vote.

Innocent believes that, going forward, the biggest challenge for the Obama administration will be to reconcile the imbalance between what the country is - a complex tapestry of traditional tribal structures - and what the United States wants it to be - a burgeoning nation-state governed centrally from Kabul.

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