September 18 Afghan National Assembly Elections–Context

For updates on the elections, see

Reading the newspapers and watching television news reports in the United States, one would be hard pressed to have any idea of what is going on in the run-up to the National Assembly elections in Afghanistan to be held on September 18, 2010.

These elections are not part of the U.S. and NATO narrative for Afghanistan. It is almost as if corruption is expected and approved in advance.

The fact that U.S. media have given such little attention to the election compaign hints at how dependent the media are on getting their information from allied officials, even if it is information critical of U.S. policy.

The revelations about CIA payments to many, many high officials in the Afghan government reflect courageous journalism, but somehow no one seems to be making the connection between the corruption by the CIA of top Afghan officials and the holding of parliamentary elections in Afghanistan.

In order to gain a deeper understanding of the background to the elections, including what happened in the August 2009 presidential elections and their aftermath, it may be useful to review the following articles by the Observer on different aspects of U.S. and allied policy toward Afghanistan, Afghan elections, and the democratic project in that country.

See the following articles, in particular:

“The Magician” enthralls donors once again, in Kabul,
July 22, 2010

The New York Times’ Bob Herbert on dire Afghanistan situation and “the courage to leave”
June 11, 1010

Intelligence Matters: U.S. Dependence on Intelligence From Wali Karzai Shapes Kandahar Strategy
May 27, 2010

Obama Snubs Abdullah During Latter’s Trip to Washington
May 22, 2010

Opera Buffa in Kabul — Karzai Threatens to Join the Taliban
April 5, 2010

News to Note: Lower House of Afghan National Assembly Rejects Karzai’s Electoral Coup
March 31, 2010

Thomas L. Friedman on Karzai; Hard Options
March 31, 2010
Afghanistan: Obama Begins to Grasp the Reality of Karzai
March 30, 2010

Afghanistan: U.N. SRSG de Mistura Describes U.N. Electoral Role; What Are Allied Forces Fighting For?
March 27, 2010

Intelligence Matters: Khost, The Flynn Report, and a Few Hypotheses
March 17, 2010

Afghanistan: Controversy Over Live TV Coverage of Attacks, Deafening Silence on Karzai’s Electoral Coup
March 13, 2010

U.S.-Pak Military Deal: Quetta Shura Arrests, Karzai’s Electoral Coup, and the Rule of Law
February 24th, 2010
REVISED February 25, 2010

Karzai’s Electoral Coup, 1000 U.S. Military Deaths and… “What Is It, Again, That We Are Fighting for in Afghanistan?”
February 24, 2010

Pakistan Desire to “Mediate” with Taliban Consistent with Earlier Reports of Deal to Support Karzai in Election Settlement
February 10th, 2010

October 16th, 2009

October 28, 2009

We should watch very carefully what happens before, during and after the September 18 elections for the National Assembly.

For while the Americans appear to have lost interest in the democratic project in Afghanistan, with NATO and the United Nations following in their wake, in the long run it may turn out that the only force that can organize the people of Afghanistan against the nationalism, lack of corruption, and religious fervor of the Taliban is a belief in democracy and the rule of law. These could potentially become goals worth fighting for. It might be worth trying, if not now at least after everything else has been tried.

It is hard to see how deals with corrupt power centers, whether at the national or at the local level, could survive once allied forces have left the country. To try to build a peace on this foundation seems, to this observer, like trying to build a castle in the desert on constantly shifting sands.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.