Completely separate from the President’s announcement on troop withdrawals in Afghanistan, a major political crisis sparked in that country, suggesting that we have something less than a partner for stability.
A political crisis erupted in the Afghan capital over the weekend after a special investigative court found that 62 legislators had won their seats by fraud last year and ordered them removed from parliament. The legislators vowed to remain and threatened to stage street protests, while a majority of sympathetic lawmakers voted to fire the attorney general and six Supreme Court justices.
“This is like the revolution in Tunisia,” declared Hafiz Mansour, a lawmaker disqualified by the tribunal, which was convened by President Hamid Karzai. “Mr. Karzai wants to show he can do whatever he wants, even if it violates the law and the constitution. Instead, he has brought the entire parliament together against him. We are not leaving.”
So Karzai has no support from even the political class in Kabul, and opposition lawmakers believe compellingly that they are being railroaded out of Parliament. Karzai’s remaining defenders claim that the opposition came into power through ballot-stuffing and other illegal means, which is quite something for backers of Hamid Karzai to say.
Wherever the truth lies, consider the situation. A top investigative court found mass fraud in elections, disqualifying 62 elected officials. The officials retaliated by refusing to leave, and their backers in Parliament tried to fire the Attorney General and a majority of the Supreme Court. Neither side is backing down, and dueling street protests can be expected. Some of the lawmakers “set up armed compounds near the parliament,” according to one former legislator. The word “impeachment” has been bandied about with respect to Karzai.
This is happening inside a government in a war zone. We have 100,000 troops in that country at the moment, fighting to hold and build towns and villages and a security apparatus loyal to the Afghan government. But the Afghan government doesn’t meaningfully exist, or at least is in serious question, based on these developments.
Current US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry said that the crisis was “ultimately for the Afghan people to resolve,” but it clearly has implications for US involvement. If the government implodes, it just adds another layer of questioning as to what the hell we’re doing with 100,000 troops in that country. Calls to accelerate the withdrawal even further will result. The President affirmatively said in his speech last week that nation-building must begin at home. Perhaps this crisis will make those promises even more acute.