Gul Agha Sherzai (whose name is completely made up to make himself sound cool), is a man with a sketchy past: he was one of the main warlords controlling Kandahar in the early 90s who did such a great job running the city that the Taliban either murdered or chased out of town all the men he was associated with to uproarious cheers. Since then, he’s moved north and east, netting himself a province with a truly remarkable agricultural sector—Nangarhar is either one of the most poppy-ridden, or most poppy-free, of Afghanistan provinces, depending on the previous wheat harvest and the performance of Sherzai’s own poppy farms in Kandahar—and become Afghanistan’s Man of the Year. According to local accounts, Sherzai is either “better then those who don’t do nothin for the people n alwayz think for their pocket,” or making himself rich by organizing some of the bribe checkpoints truck drives going through the Khyber (when it’s open) must transit.
There are other stories: he’s either great for building roads and trying to fix the police, or he’s corrupt for being too “usy with musicians, dancing boys, handsome musician are all around him, parties, bribery, collecting money.” He’s a mixed bag, in other words. So guess who Barack Obama invited to his inauguration? Certainly not Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai. No, according to Baktash Siawash he invited Sherzai.
Obama select four Afghan politicians to participate in his ceremony which Gula Agha Sherzai, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Dr. Ali Ahmad Jalali are the invited persons.
To build off Christian’s good rumination on Afghanistan’s forthcoming Presidential election, these men are likely to run in the election. Contrasted with Seth Jones’ rather shallow defense of US-backed puppets, these names might represent the new power elite in Afghanistan, at least as far as America is concerned. It might even be a good thing, since Karzai has not yet shown himself to be an effective enough leader to break the hold of corruption and narcotics on the country (his brother probably doesn’t help).
But my big question is: how are these other men any better? Sherzai has obvious shortcomings; Abdullah Abdullah is a Tajik and was a close advisor to Ahmed Shah Massou and this not too attractive to the Hazaras and many Pashtuns; Ashraf Ghani kinda sorta broke Afghanistan the last time he tried to assert a role in its affairs (as a participant in the Bonn process); Ahmad Jalali is a wonderful scholar (he cowrote The Other Side of the Mountain with Les Grau), but who knows what his leadership skills are, or how popular he is in Afghanistan itself as compared to the American classroom?
Indeed, and Christian said this in his post, it is a practical impossibility to find an Afghan without some kind of crazy problem that probably should preclude him from assuming office. Then again, American politicians have the same sorts of problems… just, they usually have fewer bodies in their wakes. Regardless, as Baktash notes, it is indeed remarkable that these men had the honor of attending Barack Obama’s inauguration, and not the current president (and supposed front-runner) Hamid Karzai. That in and of itself is a pretty remarkable statement of faith.
So, where does that part about strengthening the central government of Afghanistan come into play again?