Secretary Kerry said on Saturday, 12 July, 2014, as per the Guardian report, that both of Afghanistan's presidential candidates were committed to abiding by the results of the "largest and most comprehensive audit" of the election runoff ballots possible. Mr. Kerry stood with the two candidates who are disputing the results of Afghanistan's presidential election. He announced that Mr. Ahmadzai and Mr. Abdullah had agreed to abide by a 100 percent internationally supervised audit of all ballots in the presidential election in Kabul.
This is indeed good news but before we analyze it further let's try to find out what is the reason behind General Campbell's optimism? Does he believe that competition and thereby convergence in the opinions of the two candidates shall be good for the US and its allies?
As such both the candidates have shown eagerness in working up with the US towards a follow up agreement after the draw-down of its troops post-December 2014 after becoming the President of the nation. But then there was a huge instability fear combined with anxiety prevailing in Afghanistan over the elections result till Saturday evening. Those who are keen observers of the Afghan politics might have concluded that there was nothing new in the claims about electoral frauds and that they were normal as per Afghan elections' standards.
But I don't agree with them. Previously, the West put its weight behind Mr. Karzai and he won both times; in 2005 and 2009. But in the present case the West led by the US doesn't seem to publicly speak of preference of one candidate over another though Mr. Ahmadzai may be slightly preferred by it. The regional powers in Asia and nearby region have different and conflicting preferences. Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia favor Mr. Ahmadzai; Iran, Russia and India see Mr. Abdullah as a potential ally. And such could make Afghan politics a bit more colorful than what it should be or would be without considering these powers and their game plans.
Now if it were as simple as stated then the elections and its aftereffects would be termed normal. The fact is that the continuing dispute threatened to upend the entirety of post-Taliban Afghanistan, undermining a fragile governance system built and maintained by the US over the past 13 years at a huge cost in terms of treasure and men. Now the nation can relax at least for a while. But one must be cautioned to note that despite of Mr. Kerry's apt intervention the nation is still divided on tribal lines and such could threaten the stability of the Afghan nation in the middle-to-long terms. Such could invite die-hard Islamism and return of Taliban back into Afghan politics.
Now let's discuss some statistics as it can reveal the possibility of a likely winner. Mr. Ahmadzai belongs to a major Pushtun clan and won most of the votes from his community, some 38 percent of the Afghan population. He also drew massive support from the ethnic Uzbeks after making one of their leaders, Gen. Abdul-Rashid Dostum, his running mate. For his part, Mr. Abdullah ran very well among his Tajiks tribe, 32 percent of the total Afghan population, and among the Hazara thanks to his own running mate, Mohammed Mohaqiq. It appears more likely that Mr. Ahmadzai would win.
But in any case, the tribal and sectarian divisions are deep and could pose challenge to stability in Afghanistan, just like the sectarian divisions in Iraq are affecting the Iraqi nationhood, should either of the candidate had disputed the elections result, which was quite possible without Mr. Kerry's timely intervention. That threat has receded but has not gone out of radar.
As per preliminary results of elections, Afghan Election Commission declared that Mr. Ahmadzai won 56.4 percent of counted votes and Mr. Abdullah the rest with the former leading by about 1 million votes over the latter. That gap is unlikely to be bridged no matter how big the electoral frauds be claimed by Mr. Abdullah's camp.
May be the West wished that Mr. Ahmadzai wins the elections but it is still not taking explicit side. The results of Afghan elections would now depend on the actions of the investigating UN authority. In all likelihood win would be narrower than predicted by the Afghan Election Commission, if the fraudulent votes are indeed discounted.
I think in all honesty that the West led by the US should have had a preference and there is nothing wrong in it. Most of things that appear decent in Afghanistan are due to consistent and persistent Western efforts to put things together and build up Afghan state. But despite of that it should not have lead to such electoral frauds which would have permanently threatened the demographic stability by worsening peace among various tribes and sects.
A new ISIL or in morphed form Islamic State based on various permutations and combinations of tribes could be in offering in Afghanistan otherwise. Simmering discontent and dispute within could create chaos in Afghanistan and this won't spell good for the regional stability of the South and the Central Asia.
But then only one candidate can win the Afghan Presidential elections and either way it was a dividing issue. So, what should the US and the rest of the West have done? Accept accounting for the election frauds and malpractice nothing much can be done. Since all votes will be recounted, therefore, the international community does appear to be fair in recognizing electoral malpractices and after accounting for that whoever is the winner should be declared.
There was no question of Mr. Karzai extending his term or Presidential elections were to be recalled in. The unity government was also not possible. All efforts should be made to announce the formal result by 22 July, 2014, though it is unlikely and inauguration of new Afghan President should take place as per schedule, if at all possible.
As a matter of policy the US should not invest into any tribes despite of imminent urgency and should make sure that enclaves are not formed in Afghanistan due to the much awaited elections result. Those enclaves which are already there should be undone as much as it is possible for the Pentagon and other American officials to do so as they can very much affect the stability of Afghan state.
The win of Mr. Ahmadzai is more likely but fear of the possibility of hypothetically defeated Abdullah trying to form a parallel government has receded to zero, as of now. May be the role of the American troops is deeper and more intense than what Obama administration and authorities in Afghanistan have envisioned and planned. This holds truer because Taliban and its way of governance may emerge out as more reliable alternative for many tribes.
The state of
Afghanistan is not a sacred cow. In fact, it can disintegrate though
the Pentagon should always act against such a possibility. There is
no point in breaking and making states based on pity issues. Sure,
for tribal people their tribes matter most but they can take up such
issues at local and provincial levels. The Federal or Union
government should remain unaffected by the identity issues as much as
it is possible in a particular state. There is no gain for a majority
of the people in the Islamic world by it becoming more amorphous than
what it is now. Muslims should live together to the extent possible.
And this should be the guiding mantra for all those who deal with
Islamic states regularly.