I’m worried about the upcoming Afghanistan presidential elections, and I’m not the only one. Scheduled for August 20, they have been a cause of concern for analysts and Afghanistan experts for quite a while. The candidate choices are worrying, there’s widespread fear of violence during the elections, and ordinary Afghans remain unconvinced that the elections will be free or fair. Two recent examples:

Abdul Rahim Wardak, Afghanistan’s Minister of Defense is quoted in the Financial Times as saying “There is no doubt that the security forces of the International Security Assistance Forces and those of Afghanistan are not enough to secure this much area.” That is a very frightening thing to see in print. I think that Mr. Wardak was trying to say that the security forces are facing a big job, and no one can defend 100% against an enemy as ruthless and committed to self-sacrifice as the Taliban, but I still don’t want to see that in print. It sounds like he’s making excuses for failure in advance.

The Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan is skeptical of American aims in Afghanistan and reported accordingly. They quote students at Herat University, one saying “Everybody knows the United States will choose the next president of Afghanistan. We should not participate in sham elections,” and another stating “I will never vote as long as foreign countries decide everything in Afghanistan.”

That combination – threats of violence, and lack of faith in the electoral process – could well be toxic for these elections.