The upcoming election in Afghanistan does not only represent the end of Hamid Karzai’s reign, but also symbolizes the beginning of the next regime to fight the Taliban once US forces withdraw by the end of the year. Azam Ahmed reports that the district governor of Logar Province, Khalilullah Kamal, believes that the word government “has no meaning here.”
Afghan “security forces are facing a Taliban campaign of violent disruption that has repeatedly struck at Western and government targets,” in a brazen attempt to strike enough fear into the heart of the society that it will not want to turn out to vote Saturday. Thousands of foreign troops still occupy the country, as well, which means that ordinary Afghans are caught between the terrorism of the Taliban and the government’s heavy-handed response, while US and international forces are in the background.
This picture hardly connotes the conditions of a “free” vote, but it is no doubt inspiring to see the tenacity of those who will show up at the polls no matter what. Whatever happens next, it is clear that the Taliban know who their next enemy will be and have shifted tactics, targeting elections officials instead of the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army.
The next head of state of perhaps the most war-torn land in the world will face off the Taliban or become consumed or co-opted by them. Without foreign forces around to intervene on Kabul’s behalf, the odds do not look promising. But nothing is etched in stone. The people of Afghanistan still have a choice. However, their options continue to narrow.