Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Real Winner of Afghanistan's Election

Meet Mohammad Qasim Fahim, the unsavory Tajik warlord whose grip on Afghanistan just got a whole lot tighter.

BY HILLARY MANN LEVERETT | AUGUST 31, 2009

The real winner of Afghanistan's presidential election will not be Hamid Karzai or his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah. It's a man named Mohammad Qasim Fahim. He is Afghanistan's senior-most military commander, with the lifetime rank of marshal, and was Karzai's running mate during the campaign. Whether Karzai or one of his opponents wins, Fahim will hold and exercise extraordinary influence over the country's military and security apparatus -- more so than the elected president.

This means the real loser of Afghanistan's presidential election -- besides the Afghan people -- will be the United States' long-standing ambition to train and equip enough Afghan forces to allow for an eventual withdrawal of the U.S. military. Building up the Afghan military and police is at the heart of Gen. Stanley McChrystal's latest assessment for Washington of what needs to be done in Afghanistan. But McChrystal's forces will be training Afghan soldiers and police to work for Fahim: a human-rights-abusing, drug-trafficking warlord who might also have had a role in al Qaeda's assassination of his political godfather, Tajik warlord Ahmad Shah Massoud, on Sept. 9, 2001 -- an operation widely viewed in retrospect as a precursor to the terrorist attacks in the United States two days later.... (more)

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