Remember Ashraf Ghani? Me Neither

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by Joshua Foust on 9/6/2009 · 6 comments

Before the Afghan election, the Big Three candidates were Karzai (obvi), Abdullah (obvi), and Ghani (kind of obvi). The thing is, I never understood the appeal of Ghani—sure, he was a decent finance minister, but since then he wrote a tepid book about development and that’s it. Moreover, no one knows or really cares about him in Afghanistan. Maybe his hiring of James Carville got him American attention?

Anyway, he’s not even on the radar as far as the election results go. Ramazan Bashardost, the rather eccentric former planning minister (and Ghaznic Hazara!), is carrying around 10% of the vote. Our blessed Afghanistan experts, on the other hand, wrote loving paens to Ghani, calling him “The Kingmaker of Kabul” and the number-three candidate.

Poppycock. I may not have followed the election too closely because I really didn’t care, but Ghani was pretty obviously a non-entity from the start. He just happened to be English-fluent, affable, and has an impressive resume… kind of like another favored Afghan we once collectively fawned over.

So my big question is: if our ostensible experts—say, the sterling minds at Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel who told us to watch out for Dostum (who already fled the country again) and a non-entity like Ghani—are so astoundingly wrong about this kind of thing… well, why do we even pay attention to them? Anyone?


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– 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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{ 6 comments }

jon September 6, 2009 at 12:48 pm

we pay attention to them for the same reason we pay attention to any media that tries to focus on something as perverse as Afghanistan’s voting trends: they tried to report it.

their attempt, as wrong headed as it ended up being, at least appeared to be sincere.

i salute their efforts, but in the end, shouldn’t we all recognize that their methods of trying to measure Afghanistan’s democratic trends will remain a function of the electorate’s transparency and participation of Afghanistan’s constituency?

though it appears to still be a fool’s errand, it is still one i can appreciate the fool’s attempt.

sayke September 6, 2009 at 2:50 pm

ghani did so poorly because he didn’t cheat.

several of my collegues and former collegues supported and voted for him, but they’re kabul-based, well-educated, and fairly progressive.

Hakeem September 6, 2009 at 5:22 pm

well, i don’t think Western power structure portrayed ghani as “brainy”, “kingmaker” because he was fluent in English. He has been associated with axis of power in Washington- London and New York for long time. He worked for World Bank, had close and strong relationship with several so called “policy making” institutes, including RAND Corporation, and was the mastermind of Bonn Conference in 2001, in which the U.S backed Karzai-Warlords government installed in power in Afghanistan.

omar September 6, 2009 at 8:04 pm

Who said no one cares for Ghani in Afghanistan? The Afghan elections were a coo in fact, not elections, the widespread fraud by Karzai-Abdullah supporters can’t be ignore. The two while stuffing ballot boxes marked some ballot papers for Bashadost so the stuffing doesn’t seem like stuffing… that’s why Basharodst got the 3rd. they tried to show it a real as they can, but God’s well and humanbeing’s well ain’t the same, their cheating is revealed. Karzai-Abdullah both stolen Ghani’s votes and threw them away or burned them out as both of them thought he is considered as “Kingmaker”and nationally and internally recognized personality, and they should try their best to discredit him both nationally and internally…

AG September 6, 2009 at 9:01 pm

Well, Ghani never had a base inside Afghanistan and everyone pretty much understood that. Reporters tend to take their cues from Washington; no one was happy with Karzai while Americans were seriously considering Ghani as an alternative.

I don’t know why people underestimate Bashardost. Omar’s assertion not withstanding (which doesn’t make sense since there are areas where Karzai carried 100% of the vote, with nothing going to Bashardost to give the count credibility), people supported him because he actually campaigned everywhere (by everywhere I mean everywhere, even Taliban controlled areas in Ghazni). There are villages where no one had a campaign poster up except Bashardost.

By the way, Karzai stuffed the boxes on 2004 too. No one cared then, he must be seriously pissed now.

Transitionland September 7, 2009 at 9:16 pm

All the recent articles about Bashardost have been engrossing. Bashardost comes across as dangerously likable and earnest, and his campaign’s resonance is something we should perhaps look at a bit more closely.

According to what I’ve read, he traveled to two dozen provinces in his beat up little car, with just a few jolly campaign volunteers and no security. (There are videos of this linked to the articles but I don’t have time to dig them up now.) Moreover, this French-speaking European-educated Hazara won plenty of Pashtun votes –something that really flies in the face of the absolutist statements often made in the west about how Afghans always vote along ethnic lines or according to the orders of the local strongman.

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