November 1, 2009 12:45PM

Afghanistan: A Run‐​Off with One Candidate?

It appears that opposition candidate Abdullah Abdullah won’t contest the run‐​off which the U.S. forced on President Hamid Karzai after the latter’s supporters stole votes with great fanfare in the initial poll. But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says don’t worry, be happy. Reports Reuters:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Saturday that a decision by Abdullah Abdullah not to contest a second round of the Afghan presidential election would not affect the vote’s legitimacy. Asked at a news conference in Jerusalem about reports that aides to the first‐​round runner‐​up said he would not run, Clinton did not make clear whether she was confirming that Abdullah would not run but she said: “I think that it is his decision to make.” She continued: “I do not think it affects the legitimacy. There have been other situations in our own country as well as around the world where in a run‐​off election one of the parties decides for whatever reason that they are not going to go on.”

If Secretary Clinton believes this, she is not only smoking but inhaling. The U.S.-supported president in a nominal democracy at the center of a concerted nation‐​building campaign committed massive electoral fraud. Only under extreme pressure did he agree to a run‐​off (when is the last time a candidate’s agreement was required to hold a run‐​off set by law in the U.S.?). Now the leading opposition candidate has given up the contest, doubting its feasibility and fairness.

This doesn’t affect President Karzai’s (fast dwindling) credibility?

The Obama administration needs to narrow U.S. objectives, focus on counter‐​terrorism rather than counter‐​insurgency, and begin withdrawing American combat forces. I make these arguments in a new article on the Huffington Post.