Sunday, April 12, 2009

Allies Ponder How to Plan Elections in Afghanistan - NYT

Inside the office of the Afghan interior minister is a map showing that nearly half the country is a danger zone. Ten of Afghanistan’s 364 districts are colored black, meaning they are under Taliban control, and 156 are colored to indicate high risk.

The map raises a difficult question: How, in such an environment, can Afghanistan hold countrywide presidential elections in less than five months?

The election, plus votes for provincial council seats, has become a prime focus of discussion, according to Richard C. Holbrooke, the special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who visited Kabul last Sunday.

For now, Afghan officials and their American and NATO allies say they are absolutely determined to go ahead with the elections, scheduled for Aug. 20. Canceling or postponing them not only would be a significant recognition of how badly the war is going, but also would throw the country into a political and constitutional crisis.

At the same time, there is increasing concern that, even if NATO and Afghan forces can establish enough security in enough places, the vote will be so badly compromised that its credibility will be called into question, and with it the legitimacy of the current and future Afghan governments.

Taliban insurgents have such a strong grip on such a broad area — in particular the southern provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Oruzgan and Zabul — that even with the anticipated arrival of an additional 30,000 American troops this year, the elections will not take place in some areas, several Western and Afghan officials in Kabul said.

Click here for the full article on the New York Times

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