Reaction to Afghan election results

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KATY CLARK: Sarah Chayes has lived in Afghanistan for more than seven years. She runs a non-profit organization in Kandahar. She's also currently an advisor to the International Forces there known as ISAF. Sarah Chayes, Karzai is officially the winner, at least according to these preliminary final figures with an outright majority, but are Afghans buying it?

SARAH CHAYES: Well, not really because there was just massive fraud, and it was very, almost industrially executed. It wasn't sort of accidental fraud in the margins. It was pretty carefully organized, and very widespread and certainly in Kandahar. I mean, no one in Kandahar really felt that there was a proper election between Taliban intimidation of most of the Province really, and then stuffing the ballot boxes where people hadn't been able to vote. No one was really satisfied with the election that I know.

CLARK: Which is notable because Kandahar is the home province of President Hamid Karzai.

CHAYES: Yeah, and what's interesting is there's a kind of general international assumption that Pashtun, the ethnic group that President Karzai belongs to are kind of collectively in favor of him. Whereas, all I know of in Kandahar is opposition, and where there was an active opposition during the election and that was able to protect the integrity of some of the voting stations. I was able to see the official results which had, you know, I mean, in one case it was 166 I think for Karzai and 144 for the runner up, Abdullah Abdullah, 42 for somebody else. So you did have a Karzai plurality, but by no means an overwhelming Karzai majority. Whereas where they were able to stuff the ballot boxes, you know, you were turning up 100% results for Karzai and everyone knows this, and so there's a widespread feeling in the population that the whole process was a sham, and some perplexity as to what it felt to be a fairly muted international response to that.

CLARK: So if the credibility of the election is in doubt, what will happen? I'm guessing the Karzai camp won't volunteer to annul the election. So can the international community do anything about it at this point?

CHAYES: These are preliminary results, and I think there really is a possibility that the Electoral Complaints Commission disqualified a significant number of ballots. Now whether it's enough to slow the entire election or let's say reduce President's Karzai's score to below 50%, is an open question and means that they're really on the seat.

CLARK: Well, Sarah we mentioned that you're an advisor to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. What are you advising right now?

CHAYES: The problem is we are the Security Assistance Force, and this is really a political matter. And so particularly at this stage of the game, there really isn't a role ISAF to be playing. It's very much a political issue. But the ball really is now in the court of the United States, of the key embassies, the U.S. Embassy, U.K. Embassy. There are a couple. The ones that really are contributing a lot of vote development assistance and military forces here. And frankly, I think it's a strategic problem. I mean, I think this is something � I hope there are people in Washington who are taking this very seriously right now because I think it becomes a little bit more difficult to legitimize or rationalize the tremendous investment that our nations are making in the Afghan mission if there is a government that is in contempt of its own citizens. And I think that that way tends to lie failure for counterinsurgencies. If there's not a political process that the population can adhere to, insurgencies tend to win. And so, I think this situation really at a strategic level puts in question the whole U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. So for me, this is the question to be discussed at the level of the White House and a U.S. policy � Quite a robust U.S. policy needs to be developed.

CLARK: Sarah Chayes an Advisor to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. She also runs a non-profit in Kandahar. She was speaking to us from Kabul. Thanks, Sarah.

CHAYES: Thank you.