Hamid Karzai and his main rival Abdullah Abdullah are once again the focus of the international community’s hopes for Afghanistan. The Afghan people will go to the polls again in just 17 days time. Last time the Independant Election Commission reckoned 61% of the population did not vote.
The United Nations mission in Afghanistan is aiming to block the risk of fraud, while 200 district election chiefs are being replaced. Ban Ki-Moon is refusing to cut the number of election centres to give the people every opportunity to vote. As Taliban attacks continue, will the Afghans turn out? It is not only a question of fraud and corruption but of course security. That is the case too for the ISAF troops, whose casualties are now at an all time high. Since August, and the first elections, the Taliban has intensified its campaign. In the capital, Kabul, alone, there were five suicide bomb attacks, highlighting the difficulties facing the Afghan army and ISAF troops in providing a safe and secure environment in which to vote. President Obama is under pressure from the Republicans. His lengthy deliberations on a new strategy and the decision to deploy more troops is proving unpopular in his own party and with Americans. He could announce his new strategy before these elections. Some believe fewer extra troops could now be sent to the country. Their mission will be to protect the local population, train the Afghan army and fight the Taliban. Giving the Afghans responsibility, “Afghanisation” as it has been called, was explained to Euronews by one analyst. “In principle, Afghanisation is, of course, the only way to go. The people of Afghanistan have to be responsible, ultimately, for solving this war and bringing this country to peace. They rely on the support of the international community for that, but we have to be careful about the word ‘Afghanisation’ … it really covers a broad policy disposition,” said Greg Austin,a foreign policy analyst. The new Secretary General of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, met in Bratislava last Friday with the defence ministers from the Atlantic Alliance. Nato is concerned about the future American strategy and in particular the eventual reinforcements. But on the question of more troops the alliance is split. Certain countries like Italy and the United Kingdom have sent, or will send, another 500 soldiers. Others, like France, will not.