In early 2002 the U.S. began forming Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) that would lead in the reconstruction process in different regions of the country. These teams engaged in various projects such as building schools and houses, improving fresh water systems, and electrical systems among other things in order to improve the quality of life. One of the most notable achievements the United States can claim is the vast improvement in the health care system for people. The PRT’s have also played a key role in helping Afghans familiarize themselves with a democratizing government.
With the Afghan presidential election a few weeks away, an analysis of the candidates is timely, as well as a prediction as to which of the eleven candidates vying for the seat would be most likely to further future security and economic relationships with the United States. Clearly, this is impossible to predict accurately until that person is in power; however a cursory examination of the candidates’ profiles can provide clues as to their political philosophies.
Predictions can be made based on a thorough analysis of that which is generally known about the candidates. Though Afghanistan’s future leadership should be determined by Afghanistan’s citizens, the United States and its allies have a vested interest in this country’s future and should make every effort to plan for all contingencies as they develop based on the upcoming presidential election.
A vast amount of data can be gained from a cursory review of one’s past. In this analysis, the ranking of candidates is based on the following data: past positions held in governmental or political affairs; past political or professional relationships; the current relations and past history with the United States; and affiliation with region, tribe, and ethic group.
Based on the above criteria we believe that Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai would have a higher probability of becoming the most advantageous political and security ally for the United States. He is in agreement with the U.S. in the conversion of forces in power during the transition out of the country. Additionally, Ahmadzai’s background in decision making in areas dealing with national security, world trade, and world banking, are most in line with western policy. Finally, Ahmadzai is a Pashtun from the southern part of the country, and this has the potential to strengthen America’s ties in the area by making election results acceptable to the Pashtun plurality in the country. A Potential concern, however, with Ashraf is his pick for the Vice President slot, General Rashid Dostum. Dostum is a former warlord with a questionable background yet he has strong ties to America through his associations with American Special Forces teams in their initial efforts to rid the country of Taliban forces. Dostum also has a strong following in the north, and is a vehement opponent of Taliban resurgence. In spite of his unsavory background, many analysts consider this a realistic choice given Dostum’s influence in the north.
Karzai’s longtime defense minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, ranks second on this subjective list of favorable candidates for president. Most American military leaders share Wardak’s stated position and strong feelings of opposition to the Taliban and laud his support for Operation Enduring Freedom. His disdain for the Taliban is also shared by his vice-presidential choice, Dostum. Wardak additionally supports signing security agreements with the U.S.
Third on the list is Qutbuddin Hilal. His experience working with the country’s former defense minister in efforts to unite organizations with divergent viewpoints and backgrounds forms a basis for strengthened security. Uniting Afghanistan’s divergent groups toward a common goal of improving security in the country is a highly laudable goal. Unfortunately, he is not seen as a strong candidate in terms of support among Afghan voters. This could be attributed to having twice served as first vice president and once as deputy prime minister.
As for the three least favorable candidates, Amin Arsala’s election would have a detrimental effect on relations with the west. Arsala comes from an influential family in Kabul. Having spent many years at the World Bank and holding other influential governmental positions, his political liability is that he served as senior advisor to President Karzai and has reportedly been very influential in forming Karzai’s anti-American attitudes and decisions.
Also less favorable to the United States is Mohammad Nader Maeem. The grandson of President Sardar Dawood Khan, Maeem has spent little time in the country due to studies abroad in London. Little support and lack of experience makes Maeem a wild card and this is a concern since political stakes are so high. Clearly, he is a candidate with little support and no viable political platform. (note: as this is being prepared for press, it is understood that Mohammad Nader Maeem withdrew from the election and has thrown his support to candidate Zalmai Rassoul.)
Without doubt, the least favorable candidate in terms of future American relations with Afghanistan is Abdul Rasoul Sayyaf. Sayyaf is credited with having first invited Osama Bin Laden to Afghanistan. A Taliban sympathizer, fundamentalist Islamic scholar, and admitted human rights abuser, Sayyaf should be considered by all as the worst alternative for both the United States and Afghanistan, for obvious reasons. Most disconcerting is the fact that Sayyaf seems to be highly favored in the presidential race thus far.
The United States has been deeply involved in Afghanistan on every level for the past decade. Few will argue against the importance of maintaining a positive relationship with that country. The success of any relationship between America and Afghanistan hinges on the people of Afghanistan electing a president who also shares that vested interest and commitment.
The Unites States still has a lot to offer Afghanistan and the Afghans still need help. That is why this election is of great importance to both the US and Afghanistan. The world will be watching with anticipation to see how this election turns out.
The elections result should be known by late May. An after-action review based upon this analysis will be completed at that time.
American Diplomacy is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to American Diplomacy.
Andrew Hicks is a 25-year-old Administration of Justice graduate student enrolled in Dr. Godfrey Garner’s AJU 432 INTELLIGENCE ANALYSIS course, in Mississippi College’s Homeland Security Program in Clinton, Mississippi.
Francisco Diaz is a 23-year-old Homeland Security undergraduate student enrolled in Dr. Godfrey Garner’s AJU 432 INTELLIGENCE ANALYSIS course, in Mississippi College’s Homeland Security Program in Clinton, Mississippi.
Faculty advisor Dr. Godfrey Garner holds a PhD in counseling psychology from Mississippi State University and is currently pursuing a second PhD at the University of Southern Mississippi. Following two tours in Viet Nam and a lengthy break in military service, Dr. Garner rejoined and eventually retired from 20th Special Forces group in 2006. He completed two military and six civilian government-related tours in Afghanistan. His work in Afghanistan most recently has been as a counter-corruption analyst. He is published in Homeland Security Today and Foreign Policy Journal on issues relating to Afghanistan as well as other journals relating to higher education. He is the author of the novel Danny Kane and the Hunt for Mullah Omar.