More Afghan gloom


US President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan strategy was further complicated over the weekend by the decision of Abdullah Abdullah–Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s challenger in the presidential run-off election–to withdraw from the contest.

The decision wasn’t a surprise, and the US has already moved to limit the damage with Secretary of State Hillary claiming that the decision won’t affect the legitimacy of the contest (though as analyst Juan Cole points out on his blog, this seems more than a little unlikely).

It’s not clear whether the contest will now even take place, though this post by The Danger Room’s Nathan Hodge before Abdullah’s announcement offers some very good logistical and security reasons why perhaps it shouldn’t now:

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‘[I]t now looks like the election is shaping up as a serious security challenge. Reporting from Kabul, the Washington Post’s Pamela Constable notes that Afghanistan’s election commission rejected advice from UN officials and announced plans to open more than 6,300 polling stations for the upcoming vote. That announcement surprised international monitors, who recommended that the government open only 5,800 voting centres.

‘That move raises huge questions about plans to provide security for the additional polling stations. While Afghan officials have said they plan to deploy additional personnel to safeguard voters on election day, it promises to increase the burden on US and NATO security forces.’

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