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And, yes, I DO take it personally: Ashraf Ghani is changing the game of presidential politics in Afghanistan
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Friday, August 14, 2009

Ashraf Ghani is changing the game of presidential politics in Afghanistan


it's tempting for me to fall into the "anybody but karzai" mindset just like i once did with my "anybody but bush" mantra, but i've got to say, the two main rivals for karzai's seat as the afghan president, abdullah abdullah and ashraf ghani, give me hope for the country...

i happen to have worked with mr. ghani's niece, one extremely sharp, selfless and committed woman, and she has often told me, such is the depth of her respect for her uncle, she would crawl on her hands and knees for many kilometers over broken glass to have the opportunity to work once again with him as she did when he was at the afghanistan finance ministry...

Ashraf Ghani, the most educated and Westernized of Afghanistan’s presidential candidates, is shaking up the campaign before Thursday’s election in unusual ways.

A former finance minister with a background in American academia and at the World Bank, Mr. Ghani, 60, says he is trying to change politics in Afghanistan. Using television and radio, Internet donations and student volunteers, as well as traditional networks like religious councils, he is seeking to reach out to young people, women and the poor, and do the unexpected: defeat President Hamid Karzai.


Mr. Ghani has been one of the most influential figures involved in building the current Afghan state. Appointed finance minister in 2002, he instituted a centralized revenue collection scheme, and oversaw the flow of billions of dollars of foreign assistance into the war-torn country.

Yet his scrupulousness made him enemies and, disillusioned with official corruption and Mr. Karzai’s leadership, he left the cabinet in 2004.


His main drawback is his aloofness. When serving in the cabinet, he came under criticism that after 24 years living away from Afghanistan, nearly half his life, he was out of touch with the people and too abrasive in his dealings with his fellow Afghans.

He left the country in the 1970s to study at the American University of Beirut, went on to earn a doctorate in anthropology at Columbia in 1982, and taught at Johns Hopkins University. In 1991, he joined the World Bank.

Like other Western-educated technocrats, he encountered on his return the resentment of those Afghans who had had no chance to leave and had suffered 30 years of war and privation.

But he says that is changing. He has sought to get closer to the Afghan people by holding an open house for the last 18 months and says he has received over 100,000 people from all over the country, which has informed the development of his policies.

“It has been the largest seminar in my life and I have been the sole student,” he said. “I connect back to the people because I have heard them, and I have heard some very harsh things. It’s been a relationship.”

also, given what i've read about abdullah abdullah (see my july 24 post here), i think that between the two of them, afghans may have some excellent options for replacing karzai who, imho, has amply demonstrated his incompetency and corruption...

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