|Karzai Is Clear Winner, Afghan Vote Results Show|
By Keith B. Richburg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, October 25, 2004; Page A01
HERAT, Afghanistan, Oct. 24 -- President Hamid Karzai has won a majority of votes in Afghanistan's election, clinching a five-year term and becoming the country's first democratically elected president, according to preliminary results released Sunday.
With 94.3 percent of the votes counted, Karzai was winning 55.3 percent, or 4.2 million, of the votes cast, enough to avoid a runoff, the Joint Electoral Management Body reported. Any showing of less than 50 percent would have required a runoff between the top two vote-getters, according to the Afghan constitution. Even if all the votes that are currently uncounted went to his rivals, Karzai would still win a majority. An official announcement may be made later this week.
Karzai's closest rival, his former education and interior minister, Yonus Qanooni, conceded defeat. Qanooni was far behind with 16.2 percent, or 1.2 million, of the votes cast, the results showed.
Rubin: Afghan Elections 'Remarkable and Positive'
Council on Foreign Relations Interview
Barnett Rubin nyu.edu , a well-known expert on Afghanistan, says President Hamid Karzai appears to be on his way to winning more than 60 percent of the vote in the "remarkable and positive" presidential election held October 9. Despite pre-election fears that the Taliban would try to disrupt the vote, it was largely peaceful. The Taliban, Rubin says, "took the measure of the political situation, and realized they would not build support for themselves by attacking the electoral process."
That doesn't mean Afghanistan is out of the woods, however. Rubin, formerly the director of the Center for Preventive Action cfr.org at the Council on Foreign Relations and now director of studies at New York University's Center on International Cooperation, says the country faces a "huge problem" of drug trafficking. "In Afghanistan, to a very significant extent, drugs are the economy," says Rubin, who has provided advice to John Kerry's campaign. Bush administration proposals to launch an opium-eradication program along the lines of the one employed against Colombian coca would be a major blow to Afghan farmers. Such a program, he says, "would destroy what we are trying to build" and would "make the United States the enemy of the Afghan people."
Rubin was interviewed by Bernard Gwertzman, consulting editor for cfr.org, on October 18, 2004.
What is your assessment of Afghanistan's presidential election?
When we had our first discussion cfr.org on Afghanistan, I said there were a tremendous number of positive things happening there, but that we had not yet created the conditions for them to succeed. I think that is still the case. There is some progress on some fronts, but there is a huge problem looming that the United States seems poised to make worse. That is drugs.
As to the elections, there are three things which are remarkable and positive about them. One is that they took place all over the country and in refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran, albeit with a number of irregularities and problems. But nonetheless, they took place. Every Afghan who helped carry out the elections, who voted, who organized it, who counted ballots are all doing it for the first time. Second, there was a very heavy turnout, heavier than in the United States in percentage terms for a presidential election. The voters were both men and women, although in some areas of the country there was a much smaller turnout of women.
Third, there was no significant violence. There was one attempt to stage a major terrorist act. A fuel truck with 40,000 liters of gasoline or diesel packed with rocket launchers and other munitions was smuggled into Kandahar. But that was found by the security services before it could be exploded. Also, it was not done by Afghans. It was carried out by Pakistanis from Punjab who better fit the profile of the new generation of al Qaeda in Pakistan. They were not Taliban. And the Taliban even announced that it had decided not to attack polling sites because they did not want to kill innocent people. That may be a little disingenuous on their part, but I think it shows that they took the measure of the political situation and realized they would not build support for themselves by attacking the electoral process.
Do you see any trends in the election results?
I have been looking at the preliminary election results afg-electionresults.org as they are coming in. What they show is, first of all, President Karzai looks like he will get more than 60 percent of the total vote. As expected, the candidate with the next number of votes, the former education minister, Yunus Qanooni, looks like he will get under 20 percent. And then, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, the ethnic Uzbek warlord, will probably get about 10 percent. Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, the planning minister in Karzai's government and an ethnic Hazara, is doing very poorly. That may reflect where the initial results are coming from, because few Hazaras live in those areas. The other candidates are not significant. In terms of constituencies, Karzai is sweeping the Pashtun areas with over 85 percent.
That was expected because he himself is a Pashtun?
Yes. In addition, he is doing quite reasonably well in the other areas. It looks to me as if he is the only candidate who pulls support from all ethnic groups. For instance, Karzai is significantly in the lead in Herat province, which is predominantly Persian-speaking. Now, there will be a struggle over the interpretation of this result. Some will charge vote fraud because the government recently removed Ismail Khan, a warlord [who was governor of Herat], and put in power people from the central government. My impression is that the government is not really effective enough to pressure people and carry out fraud in a concerted manner. It may also be interpreted as a vote of support in favor of the administrative changes in the province and the removal of Ismail Khan. I don't know. In any event, it shows Karzai having a significant victory in a mainly Persian-speaking area, not only a Pashtun area.
What do the results mean?
We should not over-interpret these results. They do not mean that Afghanistan is on the way to being a democracy. They provide legitimacy for the process of political transformation; the people have confirmed the choice--by the United States and the United Nations and others--of Karzai. They have also affirmed that they do not want to be ruled by warlords, although some warlords do have genuine political constituencies. They will have to be dealt with on that basis.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said today that it will take some 10 years for democracy to be established. What do you make of that?
That's a very optimistic view. It depends on what you mean by democracy. To me, it means that people participate in governing themselves, which means that they participate in the forming of policies that affect their lives. That brings us to the next point, which is about drugs.
Could you spell that out?
The drug economy in Afghanistan is completely out of control. Last year, the opium economy in Afghanistan accounted for an amount equal to an estimated 50 percent of the legal economy the year before. This year, the CIA recently estimated that the amount of land on which opium is grown is now more than 60 percent higher than the previous years. On the northern border with Central Asia, 96 percent of the seizures [of illicit goods] coming out of Afghanistan into Central Asia are of heroin or morphine. That means that there are many more processing labs inside Afghanistan that are providing larger profits to drug traffickers and to warlords.
In Afghanistan, to a very significant extent, drugs are the economy. It is the foreign exchange from drugs that is supporting imports, that is keeping prices stable. Every time Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld goes there, he drives through Kabul and says, "It is great." There is all this construction activity. It is based on drugs. The amount of money coming into Afghanistan from the sale of drugs abroad is nearly twice the amount from international assistance.
Now, as one of the members of the Afghan government said to me, "Cultivators don't produce traffickers; traffickers produce the cultivators." So what you have to do is focus law-enforcement efforts on the traffickers who have gotten people in almost debt bondage to make them grow opium. You have to have a huge effort to renovate the whole economy. You can't talk about some marginal counternarcotics program as an add-on to your overall approach. The narcotics are one-half the value of the legal economy, in one of the poorest and best-armed countries in the world.
What is the Bush administration's policy?
They are talking about aerial crop eradication through spraying, as in Colombia. If they carry out that policy, the administration would destroy what we are trying to build. That would make the United States the enemy of the Afghan people. Everyone who works on drug trafficking internationally will tell you that, in formulating an anti-drug policy, the last thing you do is crop eradication. Bring in crop eradication when you have given people alternative livelihoods. That is the policy in countries where drugs are a marginal part of the economy. At this point, we are not offering the Afghans significant alternative livelihoods. We are aligning with some major traffickers who are allies in our war on terrorism. And meanwhile, we would destroy the livelihood of poor people with aerial spraying.
Is this going on now?
No. There is a policy battle over this right now. There are powerful people in this administration who are pushing for aerial spraying. That would destroy everything positive we are trying to do there. We do have to attack drugs. The Defense Department has been cautious on this. Troops were ordered not to do anything about it. A major commander, one of the main allies in the war on terrorism, was arrested with a truck full of heroin. He was taken to Bagram Air Base for three days and then was let go. He is back as a commander of one of the four major garrisons in the country. It was said then that "this is not our job." Now the United States is saying, "It is our job," but we are going about it in the wrong way.
Has Senator John Kerry come out with a policy paper on Afghanistan?
Both he and John Edwards spoke in the recent debates about the growing drug problem. So far, the campaign has not come out with a statement on what their counternarcotics policy in Afghanistan would be. They have just noted that, while applauding the [Afghan] elections, nonetheless under the Bush administration's watch, narcotics have become a very big problem.
What should we be doing?
You cannot eliminate half of the economy through law enforcement. It is just crazy. It requires a major development effort. There is nothing right now under way that would help the economy grow legally in a significant way.
What is the dollar estimate of the drug economy?
The estimate for 2003 is that the total value of opium in the Afghan economy is about $2.3 billion. The total legal economy was about $4.1 to $4.2 billion. No other country has anything like Afghanistan in the proportion of drugs to the overall economy. Burma is the closest, which is about one-half of Afghanistan.
Summing up, what would you say about Afghanistan today?
They have recently succeeded in removing Ismail Khan and other commander-type governors in a number of provinces in western Afghanistan. They have deployed the Afghan national army there. They are on their way to improving the administrative and security reach over western Afghanistan. I think they are making some progress in a number of the Pashtun areas. I think a number of warlords have transformed themselves into political leaders in this election, and now they will start preparing for the parliamentary elections.