What are the issues being debated in Afghanistan’s upcoming election? 

Man, oh (wo)man, if you think the American political system’s all screwed up, take a look at Afghanistan’s.

We Americans only have to contend with one secretly Muslim president who wasn’t born in the United States.

In Afghanistan, they’ve had a Muslim president who wasn’t born in the United States since 2001!

Worse still, of the 40 candidates vying to replace incumbent Hamid Karzai in the Aug. 20 presidential election, I’m pretty sure all are Muslims who weren’t born in the United States!
 
And get this: All these people are, like, totally open about the fact that they’re Muslim non-Americans.

They're not bothering to engage in any President Obama-style cover-ups (i.e., forge a U.S. birth certificate, build a time machine to 1961 to place a birth announcement in a U.S. newspaper in anticipation of a presidential bid 47 years later, or attend Christian church for most of their adult lives.)

I know it sounds crazy, but these Afghans are almost acting like it’s perfectly fine to be a Muslim born outside the U.S. WTF? Don’t they watch Fox or CNN in Afghanistan? Don’t they know!

The bookmaker’s favorite is Karzai.

Karzai is one of the only cast members left over from the first season of the War On Terror™. He’s an ethnic Pashtun and veteran of the U.S.-backed Afghan war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Karzai didn’t much mind the wicked Taliban (also Pashtun) when they came to power in the mid-'90s, but by the time Operation Enduring Freedom rolled into Afghanistan in 2001, he’d had a big falling-out with them.

Diplomatically astute, handsome, and uncommonly stylish (Gucci’s Tom Ford once called him the most chic man in the world), Karzai maneuvered his way into the black heart of the Bush administration by offering himself up as their fantasy Afghan – acceptable to Afghans and friendly to Western governments.

It didn’t hurt that Karzai’s also telegenic as hell – brilliant at schmoozing U.S. journalists who only ever interview people who are fluent in English. Karzai was the magic man: the first Afghan in history as comfortable on cable as he was in Kabul.

So naturally, we “helped” make him interim president of Afghanistan in 2001 and backed his campaign to become Afghanistan’s first-ever elected president in 2004.

The knock against Karzai is that he’s ineffective and corrupt.

I’m all for bashing Bush administration puppets, but calling him ineffective is somewhat unfair. No one Afghan is up to the job.

Afghanistan is the poorest, least-developed country outside sub-Saharan Africa. If you look up “shithole” in the dictionary, there’s picture of a shithole acting all offended that you dared compare it to Afghanistan.

Afghans simply cannot fix their country on their own. The U.S. and allies pledged mountains of security and development aid, but neither emerged in sufficient quantities. We preferred to spend the effort and money on Iraq.

Afghanistan’s miserable poverty hasn’t abated, and the savage fundamentalism of the Taliban was replaced after 2001 with warlordism, widespread government corruption at all levels, and an opium-based economy.

Meanwhile, the security situation is awful. The Taliban rebounded from its 2001 mauling. It has gotten stronger each year. Depending on who’s estimating, the Taliban control one-quarter to one-third of Afghanistan.

To fight the Taliban, the U.S. and NATO keep stepping up operations – catching more and more innocent civilians in the crossfire. The U.N. says 1,013 Afghan civilians have been killed in the war against the Taliban so far this year, up from 808 during the same period in 2009.

Unless the Obama administration is totally head-faking, it’s planning to escalate the war in Afghanistan significantly before the end of the year. There will be 68,000 U.S. troops there by the fall – part of an Afghan “surge” Obama hopes will bring enough of a semblance of order to Afghanistan for him to draw down U.S. forces next year.

Next week, I’ll talk about the opposition candidates.

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