Monday, October 19, 2009

Obama to Karzai: No marriage, no dowry?

I have noted before that at least since September 20 Obama has been signalling that the ostentatiously public review of Afghan strategy is at least in part an attempt to force a credible outcome -- most likely a unity government between Karzai and Abdullah -- to the fraudulent Afghan election. In his talk show blitz at that time, Obama recast the troop increase he ordered in March as a bid to secure the election and stressed that he had at that time planned a second review in the election's wake.

The point may seem obvious by now - how could the U.S. go all-in to support a government re-seated by an election so fraudulent it insistently recalls the bogus election in Iran? In any case, the linkage was made explicit by a chorus of administration officials and allies this weekend. From the Times' talk show roundup:

WASHINGTON — The White House signaled Sunday that President Obama would postpone any decision on sending more troops to Afghanistan until the disputed election there had been settled and resulted in a government that could work with the United States.

As an audit of Afghanistan’s Aug. 20 election ground toward a conclusion, American officials pressed President Hamid Karzai to accept a runoff vote or share power with his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister. Although Mr. Karzai’s support appeared likely to fall below 50 percent in the final count, together he and Mr. Abdullah received 70 percent, in theory enough to forge a unity government with national credibility.

The question at the heart of the matter, said President Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is not “how many troops you send, but do you have a credible Afghan partner for this process that can provide the security and the type of services that the Afghan people need?” He appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

He echoed the thoughts of Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, a top Obama ally and the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who said in a separate interview from Kabul, “I don’t see how President Obama can make a decision about the committing of our additional forces, or even the further fulfillment of our mission that’s here today, without an adequate government in place.” His interview was broadcast on “Face the Nation.”

“It would be irresponsible,” Mr. Emanuel told CNN. Then he continued, paraphrasing the senator, that it would be reckless to decide on the troop level without first doing “a thorough analysis of whether, in fact, there’s an Afghan partner ready to fill that space that U.S. troops would create and become a true partner in governing.”
Looks awfully like no shotgun marriage, no dowry.

UPDATE 10/27: Joe Klein (10/24) also sees Obama's pause as a conscious application of political pressure:

Rahm Emanuel's television appearance last Sunday, in which he said that no decision could be made on more troops until the Afghan government resolved its electoral mess, was part of a coordinated effort to get Karzai to agree to a runoff election. And it worked, but not before a baloney-storm erupted among the wingers, criticizing the President and Emanuel for dithering about sending more troops. As soon as Karzai agreed to the runoff, a second message was sent by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates--plans were proceeding for the next stage of the war. The Emanuel-Gates statements were routinely described as "dueling" and, for a day or so, that's exactly how it seemed: a slight breech between the Pentagon and the White House.

But it wasn't. And Obama's effort to formulate a new strategy for Afghanistan is, by all accounts, a coherent effort to incorporate four information streams--the military situation on the ground (the McChrystal stream); the military situation across the Pakistan border, where a major offensive is taking place that will have an impact on the situation in Afghanistan; the Afghan political stream; and the latest intelligence about the size, strength and intentions of Al Qaeda.

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