Afghan Elections May Not Matter For Future U.S. Afghanistan Plans

Leading candidates all support signing the security pact with the U.S.


Afghan presidential election will be held tomorrow, April 5. Twenty-seven candidates filed to run, but 16 were disqualified. The frontrunners to replace the term-limited Hamid Karzai are Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign affairs minister who finished second with 30 percent of the vote in 2009, and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, a former finance minister who finished fourth with 3 percent of the vote in 2009.

Karzai has been president during most of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. But he has insisted that the next president be the person to decide whether to sign a security pact with the United States that would govern the American presence in Afghanistan after this year. (The Obama administration has been claiming it had a deal in principle since last summer.)

Bloomberg News reports Abdullah hopes he can avoid a run-off in the April 5 election and sign the U.S. security pact "within a month." But whether Abdullah wins, and whether there's a run-off, may not matter for the security deal, as Kenneth Katzman at Al Jazeera America notes:

All of Karzai's likely successors, to be elected in a presidential election process that begins on April 5, have said they would sign the BSA. Even if the new president is sworn in as late as September (allowing for a runoff and election complaint period), military planners say there will likely be sufficient time for the United States and NATO to assemble the planned "Resolute Support" mission. That operation would reportedly consist of about 12,000 trainers and mentors and another 2,000 Special Operations forces conducting combat missions nationwide. No firm decision on the size of the Resolute Support international force has been announced. The U.S. will likely leave $6 billion worth of equipment behind, most of which could end up in a junk pile.

International observers are more interested in whether Afghanistan can have a successful election and transfer of power rather than the candidates' specific policy positions, as ABC News explains:

The Afghan government has had to work hard to set up the complex operation that constitutes a national election. It will employ more than 200,000 observers to ensure a fair election and more than 3,000 donkeys to carry ballots from 6,775 polling stations to cities to be counted. There are 12 million registered voters expected to take part. It is the first massively organized operation of its kind in Afghanistan. Gunmen shot and killed one A.P. journalist and injured another in the eastern Khost province earlier today.

Check back here at Reason 24/7 for coverage and results over the weekend.