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Afghanistan's pre-election violence
What's behind it, and what does it mean for President Hamid Karzai's chances?
 

What happened
The Taliban launched a wave of violent attacks in Kabul two days ahead of Afghanistan's national elections. Insurgents have vowed to disrupt the voting. Kai Eide, the top U.N. official based in the country, said security problems could increase the chances of irregularities, but not enough to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the elections (Voice of America).

What the commentators said
The violence isn't doing President Hamid Karzai's re-election bid any good, said Carlotta Gall in The New York Times. "Whether and how to negotiate peace with the Taliban" is the main issue of the campaign. Polls show Karzai is still the favorite, but more and more people are questioning whether his government "is moving effectively toward persuading the Taliban to end their insurgency."

This the worst violence in Afghanistan since the war began eight years ago, said Samina Ahmed in The Boston Globe. Something must be done to ensure that Afghans feel safe enough to go out and vote, or the election will feel to many like a sham. "An election that is perceived as illegitimate could be the flashpoint for further destabilization of an already fragile state."

In 2004, America's support alone was enough to convey legitimacy, said Jean Mackenzie in Foreign Policy. Hamid Karzai was dismissed by some as a U.S. puppet, but that was okay because there was widespread hope that American aid would make things better. Now that Afghans' hopes have been dashed by the failure of promised assistance programs and by an "increasingly onerous" occupation, "the danger is that growing numbers of Afghans associate these evils with a defect in the democratic system of government."

The biggest problem in Afghanistan, said Selig S. Harrison in The New York Times, is "the growing alienation of the country’s largest ethnic group, the Pashtun tribes, who make up an estimated 42 percent of the population of 33 million." Many Pashtuns support the Taliban because they believe their old rivals, the Tajiks, have too much power in Kabul. Until that power is curbed, "no amount of American money or manpower will bring the insurgency to an end."

 

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