U.S.-Pak Military Deal: Quetta Shura Arrests, Karzai’s Electoral Coup, and the Rule of Law

REVISED February 25, 2010

On February 24, the Crhristian Science Monitor reported from Kabul that Pakistani military sources say they have arrested seven of the 15 members of the Afghan Taliban’s Quetta Shura.

See Anand Gopal, “Half of Afghanistan Taliban leadership arrested in Pakistan,” The Christian Science Monitor (Kabul, February 24, 2010 dispatch).

If true, the report suggests the U.S. has obtained big gains, at least in the short term, from its deal with the Pakistani military.

Viewed from the perspective of this bargain, even acquiescence by the U.S., NATO and the U.N. in Karzai’s blatant maneuver to take over the Independent Electoral Commission has a certain logic, and can be understood as providing assurance to the Pakistani military that Abdullah and the forces of the Northern Alliance, who they view as too close to India, will not be allowed to win significant power through the elections to the National Assembly in 2010.

The gains against the Afghan Taliban are certainly important, and to be applauded.

However, can anyone still say, with a straight face, that we are fighting for “the rule of law” in Afghanistan?

To win the longer-term struggle in Afghanistan, the United States needs to “roll back” Karzai’s electoral coup with the Independent Electoral Commission, and get behind the project of free and transparent elections to the National Assembly later this year.

Support of NATO and other U.S. allies for continuing troop commitments in Afghanistan may depend on perceptions that the U.S. is interested in broader goals in Afghanistan–including protection of international human rights (e.g., women’s rights), good governance, and the rule of law–and not just getting out as quickly as it can.

The Trenchant Observer

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