Secret talks aim to heal Afghanistan's political splits.

There seems little mainstream press interest in what is going on behind the scenes. Even if Karzai ends up winning as seems quite likely the occupiers will make sure that his government reflects their interest and Karzai's power is trimmed as much as possible precisely as this article suggests. However manufacturing puppets out of crafty Afghan politicians is not much easier than the battle with the Taliban.

Secret talks aim to heal Afghanistan's political splits
September 19, 2009
Afghan politicians, power-brokers and diplomats are playing a game of intrigue that could broker a compromise to bury the divisive legacy of last month's disputed presidential election.
Western missions in Kabul say the country's destiny will be decided by a recount of hundreds of thousands of suspect votes that could overturn the lead of Hamid Karzai, the incumbent president.
Behind closed doors, however, opposition leaders and foreign envoys are in talks that could boost the influence of technocrats and trim presidential powers.
Yet the participants will have to juggle such an array of ethnic, regional and political factors that any unity government might be less capable of confronting a Taliban insurgency than its predecessor.
"Just imagine that you're taking birds from different species and forcing them to live together in a cage," says Waheed Mojda, a political analyst.
"They are only staying in the cage because they fear the cat - the Taliban."
The west's worry is that disputed polls will trigger a prolonged power struggle while Barack Obama, the US president, is battling to convince Congress to back a counter-insurgency strategy aimed at winning Afghan support.
Evidence of fraud has prompted a UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission to order a partial recount that could invalidate an existing tally that gives Mr Karzai outright victory over Abdullah Abdullah, his main rival.
Yet a second-round run-off might not be feasible before winter snows melt, raising the risk of a vacuum that could be exploited by insurgents.
There is a chance a second round might be held sooner than expected. An official at the Independent Election Commission said staff had been told to ensure they had supplies in case of a run-off. Mr Abdullah and Mr Karzai have both said they believe the complaints process must take its course.
Mr Abdullah, who served Mr Karzai as foreign minister before they fell out, said on Thursday he would not join a coalition. "My point right from the beginning was not to get a post in the government, but rather to bring change ," he said.
The impasse has encouraged manoeuvring by other presidential hopefuls. Sarwar Ahmedzai, who has a strong following in parts of the Pashtun south, says he made a proposal to UN and US diplomats under which Mr Karzai would remain president but create new posts to allow technocrats to oversee security, economic and foreign policy.
Any compromise would need to balance competing ethnic interests in the face of growing alienation in the Pashtun areas, the main theatre of the Taliban insurgency, and discontent among northern minorities who back Mr Abdullah.
Appeasing northern sentiment will also be complex. Analysts say figures such as Ata Mohammed Nur, governor of Balkh province, might wield even more influence than Mr Abdullah, whose friends in Iran and Russia will want a say.
But for Afghans who braved Taliban threats to vote the spectacle of flawed elections giving way to a messy compromise might undermine support for democracy. "We have to have a fair outcome," says Mohammed Qasim Akhgar, editor of Hashte-e-Sobh, a daily newspaper. "Otherwise we'll have to to hold a funeral to bid farewell to democracy."
Additional reporting by Fazel Reshad


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