Tales from the Trail

Victory for Karzai, minefield for Obama?

Former President George W. Bush used to talk about the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” He was talking about education in the United States.

But these days, that phrase could easily refer to the U.S. government’s attitudes towards Afghanistan. Just look at the following phrases from American officials this year.

“We never promised Afghans a perfect democracy,” “Afghans have lower expectations in terms of security,” “we have to recognise Afghanistan will always remain a poor, conservative land with a low-level insurgency,” “our goal in Afghanistan is simply to prevent al Qaeda using its territory to attack us.” AFGHANISTAN-ELECTION/KARZAI

All perfectly reasonable in many ways, but hardly a compelling manifesto to win Afghan hearts and minds.

The concern is that there has been such a concerted effort to lower the bar in Afghanistan this year, and to downplay what is achievable, that failure sometimes seems almost inevitable.

The First Draft: Elections East-West

Elections in the East, elections in the West.

Hot off the wire: Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been declared re-elected.

AFGHANISTAN/Afghanistan’s election commission made the declaration after Karzai’s opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, withdrew and a run-off election was canceled. “The Independent Election Commission declares the esteemed Hamid Karzai as the president,” the commission’s chief said.

This will no doubt increase the pressure on President Barack Obama to roll-out his new Afghanistan strategy earlier rather than later, now that he knows who the United States will be dealing with.

Matthew Hoh, the former State Department employee who quit last month in protest over U.S. policy in Afghanistan, told NBC’s “Today” show that the Karzai news was “disappointing” and despite the investment of  a lot of U.S. resources, “we didn’t get what we put our troops there for.”

Time to get tough on Afghan fraud, start with the message

What message does it send when the U.N. representative to Afghanistan says it will be impossible to eliminate fraud in the run-off election? AFGHANISTAN-ELECTION/

That’s what Kai Eide admitted last week, adding, “what we will try to do, is to reduce the level of fraud.”

Is that really what Afghans should be hearing on the eve of this crucial vote — steal a few less votes this time around please?