- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 26, 2009

AFGHAN EMERGENCY

As President Obama prepares to release his new military strategy for Afghanistan, a leading think tank is warning about the failure of the United States and its allies to clean up political corruption that has given Taliban terrorists a “huge public relations victory.”

The International Crisis Group called for “vigorous constitutional and electoral reforms” because of the widespread voting violations reported in the August presidential election, after which Hamid Karzai won a disputed second term.

“Karzai’s retaining power under these circumstances has bolstered the impression that the international community is disinterested in or incapable of checking corruption,” senior analyst Candace Rondeaux said in the report released Wednesday. “It has handed the Taliban a huge public relations victory.”

Her colleague, South Asia project director Samina Ahmed, added that the reaction of the West showed that it cares little about the legitimacy of Afghan elections.

“The international community has too often acted as if the election cycle was merely a box to tick, and we’ve all seen where that has led,” she said.

“Impending decisions about military strategy, troop levels and state-building concepts may mean little if we do not cauterize the damage from these fraudulent elections inflicted on Afghanistan. Only thorough reform can do that.”

The group recommended that the “international community” force reforms on the government, such as : preventing politicians with “links to armed groups or criminal activities” from being appointed to the Cabinet; forming an “impartial commission of inquiry” to investigate the Aug. 20 elections; convening a “loya jirga,” or grand assembly, to adopt constitutional reforms; and calling for the resignation of Kai Eide, chief of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, because he has “lost the faith of many on his staff and the necessary trust of many parts” of the Afghan political leadership.

‘NEW JEWS’

The Israeli ambassador is trying to put the best spin on the White House’s relations with the Jewish state, even reaching back into Thanksgiving history to remind audiences that the Pilgrims considered themselves “new Jews” who had reached a new “promised land.”

Ambassador Michael Oren, a former American professor who gave up his U.S. citizenship to represent Israel, told an audience at Brown University in Providence, R.I., this week that he knew taking on the job as Israeli envoy would be difficult with a liberal president in Washington and a conservative prime minister in Jerusalem.

He called President Obama’s administration “center-center-left-of-center” and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus administration “center-center-right-of-center.”

However, he insisted that Israel is convinced that Mr. Obama supports the Jewish state, although public opinion polls in Israel tell a less diplomatically correct story. Most surveys find that Israelis think that Mr. Obama is more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israeli. One poll found that only 4 percent of Israelis think Mr. Obama is looking out for them.

Mr. Oren conceded that initially relations threatened to be difficult.

“Right off the bat, there was the basis for a certain amount of divergence, if not friction,” he said, according to a report in the Providence Journal.

Mr. Oren added that Mr. Obama showed his support for Israel in a speech in Egypt when he defended Israel’s right to exist, driving the point “into the heart of the Arab world.”

“No American president had even done that before,” he said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.


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