An Afghan woman voter shows her finger to a friend after casting her ballot at a polling station in a school in Kabul, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009.

As Afghans vote, American support for the Afghan war collapses

A light turnout in the Afghan elections could force incumbent President Karzai into a run-off


Juan Cole
August 20, 2009 4:21PM (UTC)

The U.S. military announced on Wednesday that 6 U.S. troops had been killed in Afghanistan.

As Afghans go to the polls in what is being widely decried as a flawed presidential election, a new Washington Post- ABC News opinion poll shows that American support for the Afghanistan War is collapsing. For the first time in two years, the percentage of Americans who said that the war was worth fighting fell below 50, all the way down to 47. Only 31 percent felt strongly about it being worth fighting.

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The bad news for Obama is that liberals and Democrats are far more hostile to the Afghanistan War than are Republicans. The Democratic majority in the House and the Senate could, if these numbers keep going south, become sufficiently afraid of their constituents that they vote to stop funding the war. Some close observers of Washington think the president only has a year or two before that confrontation with Congress takes place.

Afghans began voting for president Thursday morning. AFP reports that in the Pashtun south, many fewer people went to the polling station to vote than in the more secure north. The Taliban and other anti-government forces have threatened Afghans who try to vote with violence. (Some have said they will cut off fingers dyed with purple ink-- dying the finger is a way for the authorities to make sure people don't vote twice.) A light turnout in the south might well allow Abdullah Abdullah, whose base is in the center and the north, to force incumbent president Hamed Karzai into a run-off election.


Juan Cole

Juan Cole is collegiate professor of history at the University of Michigan. He runs a news and commentary webzine on U.S. foreign policy and progressive politics, Informed Comment. His new book, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires (Nation Books), has just been published.

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