Karzai Points to Sayyaf for President in 2014

by Alec Metz on 8/19/2013 · 2 comments

Sayyaf Election Poster in Kabul

It was reported last week that Karzai held a meeting with the Warlord Abdul Rasul Sayyaf,  Minister Ismail Khan, Vice President Fahim, and Governor Mohammad Atta (who has presidential ambitions of his own) to press quorum to accept Sayyaf as candidate for president in 2014. The article points out that Atta did not commit, and suggests the matter is still under consideration by the powerful clique. That Sayyaf was suggested is surprising given the Karzai family’s own maneuvering of Qayum Karzai, although an early rejection of Sayyaf may make the field easier for a Karzai family nomination. There are not so many powerful Pashtuns with name-recognition left in the Karzai circle.

Graeme Smith is quoted in the article as saying “…among Afghans, this does not look that crazy at all;” sadly, it is not surprising for many Afghans, but for most Afghans, I would argue, a Sayyaf candidacy would be viewed as disastrous. While Sayyaf may be the only “legal” Pashtun warlord left from the anti-Soviet war and civil war period, he is hardly well-liked and stands accused of some human rights violations heinous even by Afghan standards, as Sekundar mentioned before. Short of a Gulbuddin Hekmatyar or Mullah Omar regime, a Sayyaf presidency may be the quickest way to dissuade Western donors from supporting the Afghan government, and Sayyaf himself would almost certainly call for the withdrawal of ISAF. It is worth watching in the months ahead who supports his candidacy.

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Alec Metz is an independent policy analyst focusing on security and development in South and Central Asia.

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Sunny in Kabul September 7, 2013 at 8:57 am

Little coverage in the Western press on this, but I don’t think Atta wants the throne for himself. He’s a kingmaker, not a king. Everyone’s been by his place to kiss the ring. I really don’t see this Sayyaf nomination as being a serious gesture on Karzai’s part. He knows this can only end in disaster: it’s like nominating Rabbani to run the HPC. Big name, lots of recognition, but ultimately not something that’s intended to stabilize the country.

My money’s on this being Karzai’s way of placating the warhorse, then when public opinion makes it clear that it’s a bad idea, Karzai drops the “will of the people” card. Pretty sure Sayyaf’s going to be just fine post-2014 regardless.

Alec Metz September 7, 2013 at 11:21 am

I agree about Atta; I doubt he seriously believes he has a chance in the presidential. But he does have the ability to trade his potential votes. In the last presidential election it seemed that some candidates, such as Sherzai, ran as a way to consolidate voting blocks that they later pledged to others. My hunch is that Atta is considering the same.

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