Afghanistan's presidential election process has been irrevocably compromised.
The incumbent, Hamid Karzai, is guilty of fraud on a massive scale. Karzai's main challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, recently announced that he would step down from the runoff election process.
Abdullah's decision to remove his name from the second round of elections is the correct move. The first round of voting was so obviously wrought with fraud from the Karzai camp that it would be impossible to accept any further voting undertaken without fundamental changes in the process as legitimate.
An election where one-third of the incumbent's votes have to be nullified due to fraud or falsehood cannot be legitimately accepted by the Afghan people or by the international community at large.
Fraudulent voting aside, the election process itself was so unstable that any result would have been questionable. During the time period surrounding and including the day of voting, Afghanistan saw some of the most extreme violence since the United States-led occupation began. Hundreds of polling stations were not accepting votes, bribes were being offered to the electorate and reports of armed threats at voting centers came through from across the country.
Given the entrenchment of the Karzai regime, the brutality of Election Day violence and the general chaos surrounding the process, any conclusion that comes of this election will suffer from a legitimacy of a highly questionable and dubious nature. It is absolutely desirable to see an Afghanistan capable of holding free and fair elections of a peaceful nature. In today's Afghanistan, however, that is simply not an achievable goal.
Abdullah's resignation from the runoff is a sign of the unsuccessful nature of the entire process. He offered the possibility of a change in the style of governance and a new, possibly more helpful head of state in Kabul. The Afghan elections failed the people of Afghanistan and failed the idea of democracy.
Should Karzai remain in office, I can only hope he will prove more helpful to the process of pacifying and democratizing Afghanistan than he has thus far. Truthfully, though, I fear he will remain a major factor in prohibiting successful progress in his country, as his government remains ineffective and he continues to support the warlords that he allied with to gain power originally.
President Barack Obama is currently weighing the decision to send additional troops to join the fight in Afghanistan and the outcome of the presidential election is an integral part of that. "Team Obama" wants to see whom they'd be working with in Kabul before committing additional troops to the occupation and counter-insurgency.
Unfortunately, the president will not be able to reconcile sending more troops to secure a country suffering from an unstable political climate. However, it would be impossible to assure any kind of legitimate democratic election without stabilizing the country, which in turn is impossible to do without escalated troop numbers. To say the attempted election has resulted in a quagmire within a quagmire would not be off the mark.
Alexander Berberich is a junior international relations major who once served beside Rambo during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.