Afghanistan and the Crisis of Legitimacy

September 18, 2009 — J Alexander Thier, Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the United States Institute of Peace and editor and coauthor of The Future of Afghanistan (USIP, 2009), joined us for a discussion on Afghanistan in the wake of the recent presidential elections.

Mr. Thier’s remarks revolved principally around the current political landscape of Afghanistan since the August 20th elections and the implications given the serious and pervasive allegations of fraud. These reports of fraud, which according to Mr. Thier are now coming from both independent election monitors as well as the pre-appointed Electoral Complaints Commission, reveal systemic abuse.

The consequences of this problematic election are two-fold. An immediate logistical problem is that if a runoff election, which appears to be necessary, is not begun shortly it would become practically impossible to conduct once winter sets in around November. This could create a major outcry among the Afghan population pertaining to the validity of President Karzai remaining in power until another election can be held. On a second, more long-term level, this election poses a challenge to the legitimacy of the Afghan state. The Afghan government already has major issues providing even a modicum of security or justice, twin pillars of Afghan society, and if this turbulent political landscape cannot be evened out in a relatively orderly fashion then it may mean a possibly irrevocable spiral towards eventual collapse.

Security for a New Century is a bipartisan study group for Congress. We meet regularly with U.S. and international policy professionals to discuss the post-Cold War and post-9/11 security environment. All discussions are off-the-record. It is not an advocacy venue. For more information, please call Mark Yarnell at (202) 224-7560 or write to [email protected].

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