Little more than three weeks before the presidential election, problems that include insecurity and fears of fraud are raising concerns about the credibility of the race, which President Obama has called the most important event in Afghanistan this year.
With Taliban insurgents active in half the country, many Afghans remain doubtful that the Aug. 20 election will take place at all. The Taliban issued a statement last week calling for a boycott, a threat that could deter voters in much of the south, where the insurgency is strongest.
Election officials insist that the election will go ahead. But they concede that the insecurity will prevent as many as 600 polling centers, or roughly 10 percent, from opening. Western officials acknowledge that the election will be imperfect, but say they are aiming for enough credibility to satisfy both Afghans and international monitors.
Even that goal will be hard to meet. Though increasingly unpopular here and abroad, President Hamid Karzai is still the front-runner in a field of about 40 candidates, and only one, Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister for Mr. Karzai, has emerged as a serious challenger. Many Afghans are convinced that foreign powers will choose the winner and fix the result. [continued…]