by Godfrey GarnerAfghans will go to the polls a final time in the 2014 election on June 14th. They will decide between Abdullah Abdullah National Coalition of Afghanistan and Independent Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. The frontrunner as indicated by polling is Abdullah Abdullah. Twenty-seven candidates were confirmed to run for office initially however, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission disqualified sixteen of the candidates. Three candidates decided to drop out of the race and throw their support to one of the remaining eight candidates by April 2014. The initial vote indicated Abdullah Abdullah followed by Ghani, receiving the largest number of votes. The June 14th election will determine Afghanistan’s new president. The election will herald Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power.
Many American’s are weary of all things ‘Afghan’, concerned only about our upcoming withdrawal from that country. This is unfortunate because Afghanistan has always and will always be strategically important. Its geographical location, bordering Pakistan and Iran, nations that are now or may soon be, nuclear capable and its proximity to China, as well as Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan former members of the Soviet Union all anxious to be players in the international scene is reason enough. The fact that America plans to leave a residual force of 10,000 in that country for an extended period however, is however the paramount reason Americans should be concerned and knowledgeable about the direction Afghanistan will take under new leadership.
The May 2014 edition of American Diplomacy carried an article, Afghan Elections Part I, by Andrew Hicks and Francisco Diaz ranking the candidates for Afghan President based on criteria developed with a central theme of Afghan/American relations in the future. Among the top three candidates selected by the authors was Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai in part because of his alignment with America in the conversion of forces in power during our transition out of the country. Additionally, his decision making in areas dealing with national security, world trade, and world banking, aligned with western policy. It was further surmised that being a Pashtun, he would be valuable in strengthening America’s ties with the Pashtun community, assuming he continued to be philosophically supportive of strong relations with The United States.
Dr. Abdullah Abdullah was not selected based on the criteria but his background is not anti-western and he was instrumental in the resistance against the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan. From an American perspective, the fact that he has been an outspoken critic of corruption in the Karzai run government is a plus. As Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister until he was replaced, Abdullah joined forces with others, such as Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, in accusing Karzai’s corruption and failing the Afghan people.
It would seem that either of these candidates will serve the Afghan people well and will strive toward honesty and stability in government. Having been in Afghanistan and fortunate to have had the opportunity to see firsthand the enthusiasm with which the Afghan people embraced democracy in the first election in 2004, I am anxious to see the strides they will make toward stability and increased democracy under either of these honorable men. The right to vote is not a little thing to Afghans. Their struggle toward a democracy has been a successful one so far as evidenced by their selection of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai to face off on June 14th. Theirs will be a win-win situation and no doubt the relationship between America and Afghanistan will flourish either way.
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