Afghanistan: The leak isn't the story -

Afghanistan: The leak isn’t the story

What is going on in Kabul may be more interesting than what’s going on in Kandahar


Reporting from Afghanistan by Canadian media is focused almost entirely on Kandahar. But as the kerfuffle over ambassador William Crosbie and the leak about the contents of the wilileaks memos reminds us, what is going on in Kabul is in many ways more interesting. In particular, it is important to pay attention to what prompted Crosbie’s outburst in the first place.

According to the reports, Crosbie was extremely upset with Karzai’s attempt to rewrite Afghanistan’s election laws to give himself more power, in advance of this year’s parliamentary elections. Crosbie was, apparently, angry not only with Karzai, but also with what he saw as a weak reaction to Karzai’s gambit from the US.

This is of ongoing interest, because Karzai didn’t get his way back in February. The IEC and ECC are independent, and the IEC has, by law, final say over who gets returned to parliament. Despite misleading statements in a lot of news reports, Karzai does not get to “approve” the results of the election. Yet all indications are that he continued to try to manipulate the electoral process right up to the election, and that since then, he has been working to manipulate the results.

Western governments, including Canada, hoped for two things out of the election. First, that the process would be reasonably fair, and that it would not be marred by the scale of corruption that we saw in the presidential election last year. But second, there was hope that the voters would deliver some fresh faces to Kabul, so that the parliament would start to develop the idea of a loyal opposition – opposed to the Karzai regime, but loyal to the Afghan constitution.

The preliminary results appeared to deliver a certain amount of satisfaction on this second score; a healthy number of names on the list were people unlikely to serve as Karzai’s lapdogs. But then the trouble started. As the IEC and ECC went about their work, the allegations of fraud and abuse kept coming and the number of polls that were disallowed kept climbing. Meanwhile, the Attorney General started nosing around and threatening to launch his own investigations, directly challenging the authority and independence of the IEC and ECC.

One problem is that the decision to release preliminary results seems to have backfired. While the idea was to provide some degree of transparency and build trust in the independent bodies, what it ended up doing was angering those who were left off the victor’s list, but giving them time and inclination to discredit the entire process. It also gave Karzai a sense of what to expect. Since then, Karzai – through the Attorney General’s office —  has been working hard to undermine the IEC. Last week, the AG “suspended” the spokesmen for the IEC and ECC on thoroughly trumped up charges of corruption.

But the IEC continued with its work, and with the announcement of the results for Ghazni, IEC chairman Fazel Ahmad Manawi says that “the final duty of the IEC regarding the parliamentary elections” has been performed. This is crucial, because it means that the IEC is standing up to the Attorney General’s office and, by extension, to Karzai. But the machinations are continuing, and it is pretty clear that the fight over the results is not over. There are reports that Karzai wants to get the entire election annulled and have it run over again.

This isn’t entirely about Karzai. There are widespread concerns, apparently even in international circles and at the UN, about the ethnic makeup of the new parliament, especially surrounding the underrepresentation of Pashtuns. The worry is that they will feel disenfranchised, and turn to the insurgency.

The election is over and the final results have been announced, but it looks like the fight for the Wolesi Jirga is just getting started. Afghanistan’s democratic institutions are shaky and under attack, and it is going to take a lot of work to maintain their integrity in the face of political pressure from many sides.

If William Crosbie if forced to resign over his outburst, Hamid Karzai might be rid of one opponent, but Afghanistan will have lost a friend.


Afghanistan: The leak isn’t the story

  1. When you wade into a snakepit, you get bitten.


    • useful comment, as always.

      • Well there's not much you CAN say about Afghanistan at this point. It's definitely a snakepit….corruption, torture, drugs, thousands of people dead, more thousands injured. Canada has lost it's good name and reputation.

        After being there longer than the Soviets…we passed that date about a week ago…and the place a worse mess than when we went in, it should be obvious to a gnat it's not winnable militarily and we've made a horrible tragic mistake.

        And now we're handing over children for 'interrogation'. We have no honour left.

        Canadians just want it to be over with….and once again we were sold out by the weaklings in Ottawa.

        So what is there left to say?

  2. The first bullseye with a Canadian connection.

    "Non-US troops can stay home", is the headline in a cable recording a meeting between the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, the US ambassador and Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, at the end of 2009.
    In Karzai's view, the extra 7,000 troops promised by Nato allies as part of this year's troop surge were more trouble than they were worth.

    The president joked that it would be better if the countries announced extra troops but did not send them, as their contributions were more of a "headache" than a help.
    "Admiral Mullen noted the political significance of these troop commitments, despite the challenges they might entail."

    • " In another cable, Mr. Karzai is recorded dismissing the military contributions of dozens of countries that have sent small contingents of 100 to 200 troops to serve in Afghanistan as a useless “headache.”

      We have several thousand Canadian military in Afghanistan so I don't believe he was referring to Canada with that comment

    • Canadian connection my butt. Where is Canada mentioned in that cable?

      Here is the text from the cable:

      "Non-U.S. NATO Troops Can Stay Home
      6. (S) Karzai asked if the other NATO countries were committed to sending 7,000 non-U.S. NATO troops, and if so, would those numbers be several contributions of 100-200 troops, or larger commitments by a fewer countries. He remarked that if the commitments are small contingents from many nations, it would be more of a "headache." He quipped that if these countries only announced their plan to deploy additional troops, without actually sending them, it would be easier."

      The key part is " He remarked that IF the commitments are small contingents from many nations, it would be more of a "headache."" (emphasis mine). Do you think he was also refering to British troops as "a headache"?

      We both know what happened here. You twisted a small phrase you found in a newspaper, without bothering to look at what the cable actually said. It's a dishonest butthead manuver, but that's par for the course with you Robert.

  3. "Afghanistan's democratic institutions are shaky and under attack, and it is going to take a lot of work to maintain their integrity in the face of political pressure from many sides."

    Ahem. First they have to establish their integrity.

  4. Fox News (you'd never hear this on the left wing media, Cdn or US) reported this week the Afghan VP was caught in the U.A.E. with suitcases with $50 MILLION in them. Our boys are dying for peanuts and those corrupt a-holes are cleaning us out and feathering their own nests at our taxpayers expense. I am not left wing, but get the **** out.

    • That was reported in all media….$56M in cash.

      He wasn't 'caught' or arrested…he was simply reported as carrying cash.

      Eventually a lot of Afghans are going to retire wealthy on their Swiss bank accounts.

      Hosers are getting hosed.

      • We're 'saving' Afghanies, while their leaders save millions in Swiss bank accounts?

        Fool you once, shame on them. Fool you twice…and they'll call it a fight against 'terror.' Just ask the Russians.

    • I never watch Fox, but I heard that story. It's all over the media. Meanwhile, Glenn Beck is trying to tie WIkileaks (you know, the source of that information) to George Soros, a man he has his flock living in fear of already:

      Don't worry, though, you're through the looking glass on this and every other issue as long as you get your news from Fox.

  5. Wonder if the author knows the definition of "gambit". The usage of this word does not seem to match the facts depicted.

    • Gambit: a calculated move, to seek advantage.
      "Karzai's attempt to rewrite Afghanistan's election laws to give himself more power" = gambit.

      Usage looks fine to me.

  6. It has long seemed possible to me that President Karzai is the president of Afghanistan at least partly because the Bush administration didn't like the alternatives and meddled with Afghan politics to get a more palatable result in 2001. While it is difficult to gain unbiased information, sources like and don't at least seem to rule out this position. Romeo Dallaire, in "Shake Hands with the Devil", is convinced that the US and its NATO allies will do anything to weaken the UN. The NATO actions in Afghanistan certainly seem to do this. I think the US and Britain (and Canada's Harper government certainly seems highly complicit) have achieved this purpose. US influence over President Karzai, despite his commendable attempts to resist some of NATO's extreme interventions, would be powerful indeed if the foregoing theory has any merit. I would be interested to hear what experts think about this hypothesis: does it have any foundation in fact?

  7. Aside from definition four, the rest seem fitting to describe Afghanistan.

    Results that derive from half measures should not be termed as surprising nor should they be accepted.
    If we've given the Afghan government anything, it has been the blue print of political manipulation through good intentions to achieve personal goals.

  8. What has become of the USA when it advocates extra-judicial killings of journalists?

    The people of North America have been frightened out of their wits by scumbag neo-cons who perpetrate endless war while they degrade their citizenries rights.

    No true hoosier would ever condone such actions.

    You went to war because Mullahs were issuing fatwa's and now you do it yourselves. Hang your heads in shame Canada. Weep for the morals you have lost !!!

    An open letter to the PM of Australia Julai Gillard: