Casinos of Politics

Political games are continuously played in our dog-eat-dog world. It is as if the” sin-city” is the world and the casinos, the countries in it. Open 24/7, they give the players, the politicians, several chances to lose. Political players however are not always playing their own chips. They use your chips and mine and occasionally win, but when they win they win for themselves.

In a short span of time, some players would withdraw from the tables. New players would show up in their places. Many politicians of rank would be leaving the strip. President George Bush has already said his good-byes and has prepared to deliver the White House to president-elect Barack Obama on Tuesday, January 20, 2009. The day will be recorded as one of the most historical in the life of the United States, not because of George Bush, but because of Barack Obama who has made history by winning the presidency of the United States as the first African American president.

Outgoing personalities from the American administration would be all but one cabinet members of President Bush. Also leaving his job would be the US Ambassador to the UN, Zalmai Khalilzad, who too, sang his good-bye song at the UN Security Council yesterday drawing praise and complements from some colleagues including the French Ambassador.

On the brink would also be the Afghan president Karzai in whose country presidential elections are due around the middle of this year. His term in office as the transitional leader and later as elected president of an evolving nation coincided mostly with the term in office of President Bush of the United States, whom Karzai honored with the highest medal of Afghanistan in his last visit to that country for a greatly controversial reason of having served the interests of Afghanistan. The long political association between Karzai and Bush created the notion that perhaps Mr. Karzai was serving his interests more than those of his own nation.

But elections in Afghanistan, if they occur and are not postponed for reasons of insecurity or logistical shortcomings, would be a long story in themselves. Already lined up for candidacy are many controversial persons and personalities, some even living abroad. It is obvious that the candidate who would expect to win must have proven and good relations with the United States. Among the many two possible candidates meet that requirement. They are Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Ali Ahmad Jalali. But this short list is still headed by Hamed Karzai who has said he is the most qualified because of his experience and because of the many programs he has started and would like to see completed.

Although the possible candidates range in their political knowledge, from outright novices to a former child genius, Afghan complex political game tables require also acc eptance by the religious and tribal groups as well as ethnic representation. In Karzai, the US had invested strongly and in him it had found a friend, a mild democratically minded young leader who had strong tribal roots and was the son of a well known tribal leader. However during the difficult years of his presidency, much was said and little was accomplished. He was put on a pedestal, was invited a few times to the US Congress on important occasions, was made part of important meetings in the world center of power, namely Washington, DC and hailed as a politician who would be able to pull Afghanistan up from the abyss. In real life, his authority was breached by US, ISAF and NATO military, his people subjected to unannounced searches of their homes and even bodies, arrests without trial and his county’s civilian population including children and women were bombed and their killings accepted as inevitable collateral casualties of war. This and many other situations weakened his already eroded hold on power so much so that he never could establish his authority over the entire country. Even in Kabul, his power was shared by his international advisers, including in the beginning the Afghan American US ambassado r to Afghanistan, Mr. Khalilzad and even posthumously by a dead jihadist leader Ahmad Shah Massoud. His weak hold on power will definitely be strongly challenged this time over if an election were to be held this year. A couple of weeks ago, a Canadian journalist asked him a direct question about his chances to win. He said why does he think the Afghans would vote for him this time? He was inferring to the many problems that still remain unsolved in Afghanistan under Karzai’s watch.

But whether people get answers to their many questions or not, as in Las Vegas, the time will come that the players would have to decide to vacate their seats for other players, because they may have exhausted their wealth, may have been left only with enough for their return journey or rarely they may have won enough to give them a chance to play another day at another table. But eventually, the new players would be prompting them to leave and leave they must.

But what would be the real impact of the new grand-player Mr. Obama on Afghanistan is an open question requiring a thorough examination, another time, another day.