Thank the Lords of Kobol

by Joshua Foust on 5/3/2009 · 5 comments

Gul Agha Sherzai—a vicious man inexplicably fawned on by U.S. officials for years—has decided to drop out of the Presidential race. This is unquestionably good news: the one thing Afghanistan did not need was someone who makes Hamid Karzai look law-abiding and non-corrupt in comparison. But where the hell did Carlotta Gall and Abdul Waheed get off selling it like this?

Removing one of the toughest potential obstacles to President Hamid Karzai’s re-election campaign, the popular governor of Nangarhar Province, Gul Agha Shirzai, announced Saturday that he would pull out of the race.

Mr. Shirzai was widely perceived to be a strong contender. Just a day earlier, a spokesman for the governor’s campaign, Khaled Pashtun, said that the current vice president, Ahmed Zia Masood, who had already said he would not run again with Mr. Karzai, would join Mr. Shirzai’s ticket…

A former mujahedeen commander who fought alongside American forces against the Taliban, Mr. Shirzai is a populist — nicknamed the bulldozer for his ability to get things done — and was probably the only person who could have challenged Mr. Karzai in national popularity.

Their evidence is Sherzai’s own assertion that people want him in charge and the U.S. military likes him. That is just lazy. Also, noting that people complain he has “harshness against his enemies” is underselling the allegations of torture, rape, and murder just a bit. The U.S. military thinks Sherzai is a good governor because all TF Duke cares about is reducing violence—something that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the terrible problems in Nangarhar. (Has anyone else noticed that the ISI would need a quiet Jalabad to keep smuggling opium into India? I’m just saying…)

Anyway, while the news itself is certainly good, I don’t get why it’s being spun like that.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1849 posts on Registan.net.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 5 comments }

Raz May 3, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Regarding your comment about ISI: Do you really believe it? India has a tendency to put blame for everything and anything on ISI.

A firecracker goes up, blame the ISI, there was an accident somewhere, ISI must be involved, your cat died, ISI must have poisoned it.

Soon, they will find a way to link ISI with global warning, or the spread of swine flu. Just wait and watch.

Patton May 3, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Since the Opium Wars and Japan’s invasion of Manchuria proved that a good way to topple a government is to get its people hooked on drugs, I think it’s safe to say that ISI probably has some sort of connection to the drug trade, whether it actively facilitates it, as the article seems to imply, or merely passively allows it. Come on, even agencies with much more oversight and control, like the CIA, have gotten involved in this sort of thing.

Patton May 3, 2009 at 2:34 pm

Incidentally, Josh, me likey the BSG reference.

Joshua Foust May 3, 2009 at 2:46 pm

Raz, I think it’s quite probable there is a connection. The ISI has deeper ties into those groups than many people are willing to give them credit, at least publicly. But you can at least see the correlation, as Patton said.

And BSG may be over, but it’s not dead. Or forgotten. So say we all.

Patton May 3, 2009 at 8:21 pm

The fact is, that ISI has a motive (money + destabilizing their no. 1 enemy), means (extensive networks in Afghanistan and India), and opportunity (those networks are all active). That would make them a prime suspect, even if we can’t really prove anything.

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