•HILE President Obama is looking to send more U.S. troops to a South Asia at war, Afghanistan and Pakistan, taken as a package, present a very disturbing picture.
Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, now admits that he did not achieve the necessary votes, more than 50 percent of the total, in the Aug. 20 election to make him the winner. Upward to one-third of his votes were thrown out as fraudulent by an independent, United Nations-sponsored commission.
That left him three alternatives unless he wanted to try to govern Afghanistan with a disputed mandate: a runoff election with second-place finisher Abdullah Abdullah, a national unity government with Mr. Abdullah, or a national convention that would leave the presidential results at some risk.
With Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry at his side on Tuesday, Mr. Karzai opted for a runoff on Nov. 7, only 17 days off, to try to beat the Afghan winter, which is closing in. The presence of Mr. Kerry at that announcement greatly reduced the chances that it could be seen as an "Afghanistan for the Afghans" choice.
Then there is the situation next door in Pakistan, where the army is pursuing a campaign in South Waziristan, an area of Taliban strength. At the same time, the Taliban and other government opponents are carrying out a vigorous campaign to create an atmosphere of general insecurity through bombs, assaults, and suicide attacks that have targeted army headquarters as well as the International Islamic University in the capital, Islamabad.
The opposition is directed against the government of President Asif Ali Zardari and is based, in part, on his alliance with the United States, which is unpopular in Pakistan for unmanned aircraft attacks that have killed civilians, for military incursions into the country, and for conditions attached to U.S. aid.
In Afghanistan, prospects for the Nov. 7 runoff producing a credible government are sketchy, given the level of success that the Taliban are enjoying, the onset of winter conditions, and the possible lack of interest on the part of people who were just down the electoral route, inconclusively, 11 weeks before.
The risk for Americans is that the Obama Administration will decide, in the end, that the elections have produced a credible government in Kabul and proceed to put up to an additional 40,000 U.S. troops in harm's way in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater, on top of the 68,000 already there.
If that happens, it will be a major error. The Afghanistan and Pakistan situations are far too confused to be susceptible to an American military solution. All the United States can do in South Asia is lose more troops and spend more money that is needed at home. The problems of Afghanistan and Pakistan need to be solved by the people of those countries, not by Americans.