Says Who?

by Joshua Foust on 7/24/2009 · 4 comments

Carlotta Gall has come out and declared Dr. Abdullah Abdulla to be Afghanistan’s “chief rival” in the Presidential race in Afghanistan. Her reasoning?

Already well known among most Afghans, Dr. Abdullah, 48, an ophthalmologist, has a background that includes years of resistance to Soviet and Taliban rule as well as a crucial role in the formation of the new democratic government after the American intervention.

A dapper dresser, wearing traditional Afghan clothes under a variety of Western tailored jackets, he combines solidarity with the former resistance fighters with the moderation of the Afghan intellectual, giving him potentially broad appeal.

After serving as foreign minister in Mr. Karzai’s government for five years, he left in 2006 and has since become a strong critic of the president’s leadership. He refused an offer to become Mr. Karzai’s running mate, and he contends that the president practices a policy of divide and rule that has polarized the country.

Today, Dr. Abdullah, with a diplomat and a surgeon as his running mates, is seen as part of a younger generation of Afghans keen to move away from the nation’s reliance on warlords and older mujahedeen leaders and to clean up and recast the practice of governing.

Seen by whom, I wonder? Not to knock Abdullah, but none of those qualities really indicate that Abdullah will challenge Karzai’s popularity in the voting booth. In fact, the little bit of information I’ve been able to tease out of Afghanistan indicates that most people don’t really care for Karzai all that much, but they’re going to vote for him anyway because they think he’ll win. What of Abdullah’s appeal?

With only a month to go, Dr. Abdullah has started his campaign late, but in its first two weeks he has canvassed six provinces and drawn growing support and larger crowds than expected. Rapturous welcomes like this one have suddenly elevated him to the status of potential future president.

Gall is writing from Herat. They tend not to vote with the rest of the country.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

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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{ 4 comments }

Spencer Ackerman July 24, 2009 at 8:32 am

Couldn’t you read that as saying that Gall thinks Karzai doesn’t face any serious opposition?

Joshua Foust July 24, 2009 at 8:36 am

I’m not really sure how — what do you mean?

me July 24, 2009 at 2:15 pm

The problem with u is u dont know Afrghanistan, ur point of view is from jurnalists and some exile Afghans, i dont undrestand u, y u r enemy with Tajiks? grow up litle bit,

Nathan July 24, 2009 at 6:02 pm

Is saying a half-Pashtun, half-Tajik politician is probably not all that popular all it takes to be an enemy of the Tajiks nowadays? Man. The bar sure is getting low.

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