Welcome to Kalamna, the student blog of the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Personally, I follow the mantra of avoiding two topics of conversation in public: religion and politics. I’m a quietist. However, when something blatantly wrong occurs within either of these two realms, even the quietists tend to get riled up. So it’s time to make my grievance known: Afghanistan, and more specifically the United States’ foreign policy in regards to it. For those of you who haven’t followed this story closely, here’s a brief summary: Recently, it was found that the late summer election for the presidency of Afghanistan was riddled with fraud. Incumbent Hamid Karzai claimed victory initially, but a U.N. commission investigating claims of fraud found these claims to be true and later threw out a third of his total votes. Ultimately, a run-off was scheduled for the end of October between Karzai and his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, but never came to fruition. Mr. Abdullah dropped out, claiming the wide=spread corruption made it impossibly unfair for him (foreign and domestic news agencies reported, however, that financial concerns among other reasons actually precipitated his forfeit). Hamid Karzai subsequently won re-election as Afghanistan’s president by default.
So here’s my problem: upon Mr. Abdullah’s forfeit, the Obama administration willing accepted the re-election of Karzai, congratulating him and beginning to move forward with policy issues of the war against the Taliban, etc. Now I know what you’re thinking: what other option was there for our president to take? I’ll admit it, there really wasn’t one. After all, other governments throughout the world, including the United Kingdom, took similar approaches. But in light of the overwhelming evidence of corruption, the United States has very publicly endorsed a government guilty of manipulating its own democratic process. Of course, all of this has also come while the military leaders in Afghanistan are pleading unsuccessfully for additional troops in their fight against extremists.
Once more, I know what you’re thinking: Matt, this isn’t the first time the U.S. has supported a less than favorable regime. Ok, I’ll concede that as well. But I should say that I was an absolute die-hard supporter of President Obama; I was out at dawn last November to cast my vote for him, I had an Obama poster in my window, I read his books, I eagerly listened to all of his speeches, and so on. And all of this had largely to do with his statement of commitment to make Afghanistan and the transformation of its painful modern history one of his primary concerns in office. And yet here we are one year later: the Afghan election has passed marred with corruption and the clock ticks away while the military screams for the support of additional troops in the fight to stabilize the country and no decision on a long-term comes. I just can’t help but feel utterly disappointed at how our country has responded to the recent events within Afghanistan. I heard a broadcast on the BBC just the other day in which residents of Kabul were briefly interviewed on their reactions to the election and the current state of their country. While some were pleased and some were angry, each indicated very simply that what they desired for their country was stability and peace. Right now they are looking at a failed democratic process and continued violence. They could use some help and I can only hope this disappointing trend in our Afghan policy does not continue.

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