While Senator John Kerry was being widely praised for recently convincing President Hamid Karzai to enter the run-off election, as Karzai was legally required to do, some started wondering, 'If Karzai cheated the first time, won't he just do it again, especially when the U.N is sending fewer election monitors?'
That question certainly crossed Abdullah's mind. Several days ago, Abdullah submitted his list of demands. Abdullah demanded the firing of Azizullah Lodin, the head of the amusingly-titled Independent Election Commission, along with two hundred of his staffers. It was a demand that Karzai was sure to reject, and frankly, it would have been incredibly difficult to replace two hundred election officials in less than two weeks and have any confidence that they would not be corrupt themselves. That is why Abdullah added a caveat that if his supporters could monitor poll locations and vote counting, he would remain in the race.
"These conditions are not that difficult, and I have thought about the lawful and legal issues of all conditions," Abdullah said at the time, submitting his request to both the Election Commission and the U.N.
Needless to say, his conditions were not met. The Election Commission will provide more polling locations, the U.N will send fewer monitors, and there will thus be more opportunities for fraud.
It will be hard for the Obama administration to spin this as good news. Secretary Clinton responded, "We see that happen in our own country where, for whatever combination of reasons, one of the candidates decides not to go forward. I don't think it has anything to do with the legitimacy of the election." Well, it could be "whatever combination of reasons", but concern about widespread fraud by the incumbent seems like a solid one. This pull-out makes Senator Kerry's work seem not only wasteful, but actually harmful, as he made Karzai look weak among the local population without making him seem more credible in return.
There is some speculation that Abdullah threatened to boycott the election to get a power-sharing arrangement out of Karzai. That doesn't make a great deal of sense to me, as he's denied interest in power-sharing before, and has already served as foreign minister in the Karzai administration before quitting in 2005. It seems clear he doesn't want to work with the man.
Obama probably doesn't want to work with him either, but you go to war with the corrupt dictator you have, not the corrupt dictator you want to have. That's why you should think hard about not going to war.