Afghanistan. Developments in Afghanistan in 2009 were slipping both the country’s government and its foreign allies out of their hands. The Taliban and other insurgency movements grew stronger and expanded their influence in the country, the military loss figures rose and more and more civilians fell victim to the fighting.
Shortly after the new US government took office, President Barack Obama’s envoy Richard Holbrooke stated that it will be much harder to win militarily in Afghanistan than in Iraq. Both President Obama and the leading military announced a new strategy for Afghanistan, and in May the US commander of the country was dismissed. General Stanley McChrystal was given command of both the US warring military alliance and the international peacekeeping force ISAF, to which Sweden contributes about 500 men. While everyone at the responsible level began to emphasize the importance of greater efforts to build up civil society, a debate was held on troop reinforcements, and if so, how large and for what purpose. General McChrystal said in September that the United States was at risk of losing the war without a major reinforcement. Also the new NATO commander,
As the months went by and the US home opinion began to falter in view of the war in Afghanistan in the face of increased own losses, so did the political situation in Afghanistan that the United States government doubted which way it would go. In December, however, President Obama ordered an additional 30,000 troops to be dispatched to Afghanistan, which would increase the U.S. troop presence there to over 100,000 men. According to countryaah, the other NATO countries decided to contribute at least 7,000 more soldiers.
In August, presidential elections were held. The Taliban had called for a boycott and carried out a series of blast attacks the days before the election in order to scare away voters. Already on Election Day, complaints of widespread cheating came, and over the next few weeks the UN-supported Electoral Complaints Commission was crowded with protests. After a month, President Hamid Karzai was declared to have received 54.6 percent of the vote but could not be declared the winner because of all the complaints that need to be investigated. In the aftermath, the image of a coarse and systematic election fraud that largely benefited Karzai clarified. After reviewing and recalculating the votes from certain districts, Karzai’s results were revised to below 50 percent, which meant that a crucial electoral round had to be held between Karzai and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. Karzai was subjected to strong pressure from political leaders in the West and from the UN to take responsibility for the second round being free of cheating. Several hundred electoral officials were dismissed, but when the senior officials were allowed to remain, Abdullah Abdullah announced that he did not want to stand. Karzai was declared re-elected but was now viewed with great mistrust by his western allies. He had been criticized even before the election for entering into alliances with a large number of former warlords with blood on his hands. Now he was again put under pressure to break these alliances and take action against the devastating corruption that permeates the entire public administration and which helps to reduce the confidence of the government.
Already early in the fall, 2009 emerged as the worst year for Westerners in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion. October was the single bloodiest month for the United States with 53 casualties. But during the year, hundreds of civilian Afghans were also killed by terror attacks staged by the Taliban as well as by misguided air strikes by the United States and its allies. A German aerial attack against the Taliban in Kunduz province in September had major political consequences in Germany after it was revealed that the Ministry of Defense had quieted down that dozens of civilians had also been killed. Both the Commander-in-Chief and the Minister of Labor, who was Minister of Defense at the time of the air raids, were forced to resign. In October, five UN employees were also killed in an attack on their guest house in Kabul, and in December, an infiltrator succeeded in killing seven US CIA agents in a suicide attack in eastern Khost Province. During the year, the Taliban also became increasingly active in several provinces in the previously relatively quiet northern part of the country. The Swedish force, based in the city of Mazar-e Sharif, was subjected to a series of fire attacks and explosive attacks during patrol missions during the fall.
Opium production was reported to decrease by about 10 per cent during the year, but it was uncertain whether this was due to more efficient efforts against the cultivations. Rather, it was interpreted as drug dealers keeping production down so that prices would not fall. A new family law law for Shia Muslims received stinging international criticism for deteriorating women’s status and, among other things, approving rape in marriage. Some of the most contentious points were cleared for recast, but the revised law signed by President Karzai in July was nevertheless considered by the United Nations to be contrary to the international conventions on women’s and children’s rights that Afghanistan pledged to follow.