Call a Jirga Not a Runoff in Afghanistan

The announcement about the Afghan Presidential runoff is as unfortunate as the election itself. The US is in some kind of dreamland if it thinks that holding another election is the answer to selecting a legitimate Afghan leader.

Traditionally in times of crisis, the Afghan people call a Loya Jirga. A Loya Jirga is a "grand assembly" where all community leaders, elders, religious and otherwise, come together and hash out a solution to a problem between the tribes and people. (Women leaders should be there too as there were in 2002).

The Afghans have been using jirgas for centuries and the international community is both arrogant and foolish to decide to impose another western style answer to this national crisis.

It was thoughtful for Senator John Kerry to run over to Kabul and talk Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah into muddling through this madness one more time. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that this "run off" will be any more successful than the facade of the August 20th election. The Taliban will definitely be more organized for violence than the international parties will be against fraud.

More importantly, the Afghans themselves will never feel this end to the electoral drama will be any more genuine than the last. If the United States and international community are serious about this intervention and having any kind of political success (and less war), it should without hesitation call a jirga.

A jirga would be an opportunity for several things. First, the Afghans can decide on an authority. Second, the jirga can be used as a time for steps toward internal reconciliation. Third, the Afghans will be a step closer to owning their governance structure. After all a jirga will also give them an opening to change the existing presidential system as well as that imposed Constitution (written at the Bonn Conference) they so aptly ignore.

A jirga may call for more work, it may call for more diligence and it may call for more patience. It may also take time, but I bet it would be less than the last two and half months that was wasted on the final decision to recognize the scam and call for a runoff.

The Afghans are experts at putting jirgas together. We should work with them to do so. Any other decision at this time may make the West feel better, but it will not improve the Afghan situation in the least. There will still be an illegitimate President despite the outcome.

Unless the US and its partners gives the Afghans ownership of this process, it will once again miss an opportunity to make the correct foreign policy decision and do the right thing for the people of the country they are occupying.

Anything else will be a waste of time and a guarantee for continued conflict and war. Meaning the US will be in Afghanistan (and possibly Pakistan) fighting and sacrificing soldiers when in fact they could have chosen a much more appropriate and peaceful path.