The European Union’s (EU) chief observer described last week’s elections in Afghanistan as “fair” but not “free”.
There have been allegations of vote-rigging and voter exclusion, which would seem to benefit Hamid Karzai, the incumbent president.
The flawed elections show the continuing deep problems in Afghanistan after almost eight years of occupation by US and Nato forces.
The EU observers admitted that voters faced “significant obstacles” .
Hundreds of segregated polling stations for women simply did not open, not just in the south of the country where Taliban influence is strongest but also in central and northern Afghanistan.
Women candidates received threats and were largely ignored in news coverage of the elections, the observers said.
Karzai seems set to be forced into a run-off with the main opposition candidate Abdullah Abdullah.
Abdullah claims that ballot boxes from the south, where turnout was just 10 percent, arrived to be counted with votes for Karzai totaling 40 to 45 percent of registered voters.
The elections were originally hailed as proof of the advances occupation has brought to the country – and a major setback for the Taliban and other resistance forces.
These are empty claims.
The occupation forces fear that a further six or more weeks of electioneering will add to the destabilisation of the country.
But they are also concerned that if Karzai is declared the winner after the first round then his administration will be even more suspect in the eyes of the Afghan people.
The US installed Karzai as president following the removal of the Taliban in 2001.
But he faces growing criticism in the US for his corruption and failure to crack down on resistance groups.
Richard Casey, a senior Democrat senator, told reporters at the US Embassy in Kabul last Sunday that he had told Karzai, “There’s going to come a time when the patience of Americans will run out.”
Senator Sherrod Brown, who accompanied Casey to Afghanistan, added, “Time is not running out next week, but they have to show results. It’s the last chance.”
The crisis is deepening for the occupying powers.
Admiral Mike Mullen, the chair of the US joint chiefs of staff, warned last week that resistance to the occupation was growing.
This is despite the introduction of a further 17,000 US troops designed to spearhead a “surge” against the Taliban.
Mullen said, “I think it is serious and it is deteriorating.
“The Taliban insurgency has gotten better and more sophisticated in its tactics.”
US commanders in Afghanistan last weekend demanded that even more US and Nato troops be deployed in the country.
Barack Obama has ordered an increase from 32,000 to 68,000 US troops by the end of the year.
General Stanley McChrystal, the new commander of US and Nato forces, is reported to be recommending an additional increase of up to 45,000 troops.
Obama has also demanded that the Pakistani army steps up its war against the Pakistani Taliban after the reported killing of its leader Baitullah Mehsud.
All of this comes amid growing concern in the White House about the decline in support for the war in the US.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll indicates 51 percent of Americans believe that the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting.
This figure is up 6 percent since last month.
Most want fewer US soldiers to be sent there.
Opposition to the war is even stronger in Britain. A BPIX opinion poll last weekend showed that 69 percent of people do not believe British forces should be fighting in Afghanistan.
Three quarters rejected Gordon Brown’s clam that the Afghan war would make people in Britain safer.
Another poll showed 60 percent want British troops brought home as soon as possible.
Troops out of Afghanistan national demonstration, Saturday 24 October, London. Called by Stop the War, CND and the British Muslim Initiative