Tony Blair and George Bush, both seeking re-election, are desperately trying to put a good light on the deteriorating situation in Iraq.
With a growing insurgency which is jeopardising January’s scheduled elections, both Western leaders hailed Afghanistan’s presidential election on 9 October as a success.
Bush stated that the first person to vote in the election was a 19-year-old woman. He said she was "voting in this election because the United States of America believes that freedom is the almighty God’s gift to each man and woman in this world".
But behind the charade created by Bush there is a dire reality. The US-led forces in Afghanistan have lost control of much of the country. Many areas are run by warlords such as Ismali Khan, Rashid Dostum and Atta Mohammed. These have the same repressive attitudes to women as the deposed Taliban, who three years after their overthrow, are now regrouping.
’Interim prime minister’ Hamid Karzai’s writ barely runs beyond his heavily fortified palace in the capital. During the election he was unable to attend election rallies outside Kabul. In September his helicopter was attacked and his running mate, Ahmed Zia Massoud, narrowly escaped a Taliban roadside bomb only three days before the election. The Taliban also killed 12 electoral officials in the run up to the election.
As well as disguising the continuing oppression of women in the ’new Afghanistan’, the US are also trying to dampen down talk of the scale of opium production in the region.
Prior to 2001 the Taliban were rewarded with $43 million for reducing opium production but in the recent year alone production has risen to 100,000 hectares. Much of the UK’s street heroin originates in Afghanistan. Tony Blair is anxious to stunt the industry’s growth but Afghan farmers can earn much more for a kilo of opium than the agricultural alternatives which the UN are encouraging them to plant.
IT APPEARS, however, that many voters have been undeterred by the country’s growing insecurity. There were 10.5 million voting registrations even though there are only 9.5 million people eligible to vote! Many hoped that the more they registered the more food they would receive.
Karzai, the US-favoured candidate who is expected to win the delayed result, monopolised media coverage of the election. The lack of electoral officials in the run-up to election was also very apparent with UN election organisers desperately trying to find people to fill the some 114,000 positions right up until polling day.
Further controversy was caused when the indelible ink used to identify those who had already voted was found to be easy to wash off. As a result 15 of the 16 candidates initially boycotted the election, a further embarrassment for Karzai’s US sponsors.
The Bush and Blair governments are desperate for an ’elected’ prime minister in Afghanistan to prove to an increasingly cynical domestic public that they are able to turn a country from a backward dictatorship into a Westernised democracy thereby justifying the occupation of Iraq.
The situation in Afghanistan has exposed the failures and ironies of US imperialism. Above all it shows the urgent need to build a socialist alternative on a world scale.
From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, cwi in England and Wales.
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