This House believes this Afghan government is not worth fighting for

Tuesday January 12 2010
MOTION PASSED by 51% to 49%

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This House believes this Afghan government is not worth fighting for

The Arab world showed itself sharply divided over foreign military intervention in Afghanistan with a narrow majority believing its corrupt government is not worth fighting for.

In one of the closest Doha Debates, now in their sixth series, the audience voted 51% to 49% in favour of the motion: "This House believes this Afghan Government is not worth fighting for."

Backers of the motion suggested last August's fraudulent Presidential election results combined with what is perceived to be a deeply corrupt government rendered Kabul unworthy of international military support.

Speaking for the motion Peter Galbraith, former Deputy UN Envoy to Afghanistan, said that a government as corrupt as that of Hamid Karzai "does not merit support."

Fired from his post after accusing the head of the UN mission of concealing election fraud last summer, Mr Galbraith said that for the US-led counter-insurgency campaign to work "they need a credible partner".

"A government that is ineffective and in office through fraud cannot work. If foreign troops cannot complete their mission with a reliable partner, they should abandon their mission."

Mirwais Yasini, who came fifth in last summer's Presidential elections,  said Afghanistan was being controlled by a "failed government" and that the deals which Mr Karzai had to make with various factions in the country  "went beyond the limits of democracy."

Speaking against the motion Lawrence Korb, a senior US defence adviser, argued that despite electoral fraud, the vast majority of Afghans believe their government is on the right track, according to recent opinion polls.

He said 80% had a favourable view of the international military force while 58% believed the Taliban to be a threat to the country's future.

"Remember that not every government is perfect" but that with that level of popular support, "Afghanistan is worth fighting for."

He said the Kabul government did not "have a blank cheque" and knew  that it had to "clean up its act" but that supporting certain governments was often a "complicated issue".

It was not America's intention to occupy Afghanistan. "We want to get out of there just as we are getting out of Iraq," he said.

Responding to a question from an Afghan member of the audience who drew loud applause when he asked whether "political legitimacy" was not "a cause worth dying for", Korb recalled that 520 coalition force members died in Afghanistan last year and a further 15 this month alone.

Shukria Barakzai, Afghan MP and prominent women's rights campaigner, reminded the audience that despite evidence of vote rigging last August, President Karzai had actually been elected three times in the last eight years, once by Loya Jirga, the traditional Afghan Grand Council, and twice in Presidential elections.

She said it was absurd to expect Afghanistan to be transformed overnight from a dictatorship into a fully operational political system. "Democracy is a process that needs decades to be established."

She reminded the audience that less than eight years ago Afghanistan did not even have a police force.  "We now have one with 160,000 officers that is still growing."

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