Among all adults, 51 percent now say the war is not worth fighting, up six percentage points since last month and 10 since March. Less than half, 47 percent, say the war is worth its costs. Those strongly opposed (41 percent) outweigh strong proponents (31 percent).
Opposition to the Iraq war reached similar levels in the summer of 2004 and grew further through the 2006 midterm elections, becoming issue No. 1 in many congressional races that year.
By the time support for that conflict had fallen below 50 percent, disapproval of President George W. Bush’s handling of it had climbed to 55 percent, in contrast to the solid overall approval of the way Obama is dealing with Afghanistan.
But there are warning signs for the president.
Among liberals, his rating on handling the war, which he calls one of “necessity,” has fallen swiftly, with strong approval dropping by 20 points. Nearly two-thirds of liberals stand against a troop increase, as do about six in 10 Democrats. [continued…]
Afghanistan’s presidential election has long been viewed by U.S. officials as a key to conferring legitimacy on the Afghan government, but Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his powerful warlord allies have planned to commit large-scale electoral fraud that could have the opposite effect.
Two U.S.-financed polls published during the past week showed support for Karzai falls well short of the 51 percent of the vote necessary to avoid a runoff election. A poll by Glevum Associates showed Karzai at 36 percent, and a survey by the International Republican Institute had him at 44 percent of the vote.
Those polls suggest that Karzai might have to pad his legitimate vote total by much as 40 percent to be certain of being elected in the first round.
But Karzai has been laying the groundwork for just such a contingency for many months. By all accounts, he has forged political alliances with leading Afghan warlords who control informal militias and tribal networks in the provinces to carry out a vote fraud scheme accounting for a very large proportion of the votes. [continued…]
Taliban threats scared voters and dampened turnout in the militant south Thursday as Afghans voted for president for the second time ever. Insurgents killed 26 Afghans in scattered attacks, but officials said militants failed to disrupt the vote.
After 10 hours of voting, including a last-minute, one-hour extension, election workers began to count millions of ballots. Initial results weren’t expected for several days.
A top election official told The Associated Press he thinks 40 to 50 percent of the country’s 15 million registered voters cast ballots — a turnout that would be far lower than the 70 percent who cast ballots for president in 2004. [continued…]
Experts laugh at claims by Afghan officialdom that all 17 million names on the electoral roll are legitimate.
An election official confided to the Dutch analyst Martine van Bijlert, of the respected Afghanistan Analysts Network, that up to 3 million of the names were fake.
”It’s ridiculous,” one diplomat said. ”You can see the process being put in place – with those numbers you don’t need big tricks.” [continued…]
Shirjan and Agha Mansour talked about how Taliban rule worked. They were enough in control of the territory to levy their own income tax, called ushur, which is fixed at 10%, and issued receipts for payments rendered.
“They collect 10% tax on all income, even from the government fields,” said Agha Mansour. “So if you grow 100kg of wheat you pay 10kg and they give you a receipt and never charge extra or more.”
Shirjan added: “At least they are honest. They don’t take bribes like the government officials do.”
The taxes are deposited with a Taliban “banker”, who uses the money to run his shop and in return supplies the Taliban with food and other necessities.
Then Shirjan repeated an argument that can be heard all over Afghanistan.
“If you take your case to a government court it will take you four to five years to finish because the longer the case goes the more bribes you pay. So the officials don’t want you to finish. Whereas if you take your case to the Taliban court they will give a judgment in one day and according to God’s ruling. So the people go to the Taliban.” [continued…]
The Taliban is winning the war in Afghanistan, a fact even the top US commander in the country reluctantly concedes. Offering a glimpse of the strategic assessment he was originally scheduled to deliver earlier this month, General Stanley McChrystal warned that American casualties were likely to keep rising, and said the US must deploy more troops to the south and east of the country.
The Taliban inflicted 76 casualties on coalition forces across Afghanistan in July. In Helmand, a historically restive province in the south, there is no safe area, and every day rockets fall on Lashkar Gah, the regional capital. Whatever tactical advances an increased American presence might win, the ultimate political objectives for which the US deployed its troops here are growing more distant. President Hamid Karzai is expected to lead in first-round elections later this week, but among Pashtuns in the south, attitudes toward Kabul and the international coalition are only growing more sour. Few tribes enjoy workable relations with the government – essentially only the Zirak tribes in Kandahar. Meanwhile, opinion polls in Britain and the US show the public has serious doubts about the meaning and direction of the war. [continued…]
… our leaders in Washington, apparently, are not yet sick and tired of war in Afghanistan. For almost a year, Western officials have been conceding that the war will not end without a political solution that involves negotiations with insurgents. But, these officials say, the West isn’t ready yet to make a deal. “Reconciliation is important, but not now,” one Western diplomat told the New York Times. “It’s not going to happen until the insurgency is weaker and the government is stronger.”
So, there’s going to be a deal with insurgents; that’s a foregone conclusion. The question that remains is how many more people will die before that happens – and whether, from the point of view of the interests of the majority of Afghans and the majority of Americans, the deal we can get 5 or 10 years from now is likely to be so much better than the deal we could get in the next year as to justify the deaths that will be the guaranteed result of postponing meaningful negotiations. [continued…]