Afghanistan: Fraud, Opium, and Taliban

If someone is caught cheating in the Olympics or another sporting event, the athlete is immediately disqualified, and it is seen as a disgrace. In the case of the recent election in Afghanistan however, cheating has been rewarded and even praised by no less than the President of the United States himself.

President Obama said that he contacted Hamid Karzai shortly after the Afghan president said he would abide by the results of a presidential election held in August.

"I wanted to congratulate him on accepting the certification of the recent election," Mr. Obama said.


How quickly have we forgotten how many Western leaders hailed the August 20th vote as an example of "democracy," a democracy mired with fraud? And we're not talking here about a few hundred "hanging chads," but rather more than one million ballots (cast on August 20) that were discounted due to the "coefficient of fraud," as the Electoral Complaints Commission refers to it. Mr. Hamid Karzai now says he wants a better and cleaner presidential election run-off in November to bring stability to Afghanistan at a time when Taliban violence is at its worst in eight years of war. The Afghan leader has played down fraud allegations but bowed to international pressure by ordering a run-off as a way to bolster the election's credibility at a time when Washington is weighing whether to send more troops to Afghanistan.

"Now that we are holding the second round in two weeks, I want it to be better than the first round," Karzai said.

Why isn't Mr. Karzai being held responsible for this blatant act of election fraud? And who can guarantee that a repeat of the fraud won't happen? Or that all hell won't break loose during the run-off? Since the August 20 vote, five suicide bombs alone have ripped through the capital Kabul.

Meanwhile, as President Obama ponders sending more troops to Afghanistan, and anxiety and anticipation are building up over the run-off, a recently released UN report says that Afghanistan produces 92% of the world's opium. The equivalent of 3,500 tons leave the country each year, fetching more than $65 billion to fund global terrorism. The Taliban's direct involvement in the opium trade allows them to fund a war machine that is becoming technologically more complex.

The report also says that every year, opium kills five times more people in NATO countries than all the NATO lives lost in eight years of fighting against the Taliban. So here is something to think about: according to the CIA"s World FactBook, Afghanistan's entire GDP in 2008 was $22.27 billion. President Obama's decision to send 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to bolster security earlier this year has failed, and the country is just as unstable as ever. Would 40,000 additional troops help? Perhaps for a short while, but with the Taliban and Afghan warlords earning this kind of money from the opium trade not only buy politicians, but can also keep this war going for a hundred years. Afghanistan is not the "good" war.