Afghan election officials canceled this week's presidential runoff after opposition candidate Abdullah Abdullah dropped out, handing President Hamid Karzai a second term. Abdullah said he was quitting because nothing had been done to prevent a repeat of the widespread fraud that tainted the first round. Has the election destroyed the Afghan government's credibility? (Watch Abdullah Abdullah speak about his withdrawal from the Afghani election)
Of course it has: The real winner in Afghanistan's disastrous election was the Taliban insurgency, says Tom Engelhardt in Mother Jones. After ballot-box stuffing discredited the first round, Sen. John Kerry and envoy Richard Holbrooke rushed over to "twist arms" and force a runoff, "in the name of having an effective 'democratic' partner in Afghanistan." Now it will be easier than ever for Taliban propagandists to dismiss Hamid Karzai's government as a U.S. "puppet."
"Too big to fail: Afghanistan as a bailout state"
Karzai can still recover: Hamid Karzai's reputation has taken a hit, says Tom Coghlan in the London Times, and "a one-horse second round" would not have restored trust in his government. But Abdullah Abdullah—who said, "In Afghanistan even the people who have fought each other sit down and talk"—is apparently open to a deal. For Karzai, conceding some power to his rival "may still be the safest route to some sort of electoral legitimacy."
"Analysis: Karzai will struggle for credibility"
It's Obama who lost credibility: The Obama administration is calling Abdullah Abdullah's decision a "personal" choice that doesn't affect Hamid Karzai's legitimacy, says Seth Leibsohn in National Review, and won't impact President Obama's decision on whether to send more troops. But the White House thought the runoff was the key to "stability and legitimacy" in Kabul when it was pressuring Hamid Karzai to accept a runoff. To say the election is "settled enough" now is "cynicism in foreign and defense policy at its worst."
"When exactly did Afghanistan become ‘settled enough’?"
The U.S. needs a deal as badly as Karzai does: The "election imbroglio" has already complicated things for President Obama, says Alexandra Zavis in The Boston Globe. As he "deliberates whether to deepen US involvement in the war, including deploying tens of thousands of additional troops," he needs Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah to work together to restore legitimacy to the government in Kabul. "A weak and discredited government in Kabul would make it more difficult to persuade a disillusioned American public and Congress to up the ante on a life-and-death commitment."
"Karzai appears to win by default"
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