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Surprise! Karzai Trucks in Warlords to Win Elections

Please, everyone: let’s skip around the manufactured outrage over the news that Hamid Karzai is bringing back Abdul Rashid Dostum, the warlord responsible for 2001’s mass killing of Taliban prisoners, so Dostum’s clout among Afghanistan’s Uzbek minority can secure Karzai’s reelection. The only thing surprising is that anyone is surprised. In September 2004, Karzai sacked Herat warlord Ismail Khan only to bring him back months later — after Karzai won his first election that October — as energy minister. Remember what Afghan political analyst Haroun Mir said recently about Karzai:

“Karzai doesn’t think in terms of growth in GDP in Afghanistan, unemployment, more services or security,” said Haroun Mir, director of Afghanistan’s Center for Research & Policy Studies. “He’s a consensus builder. As long as he could win a consensus of important power brokers, he thinks he’s a very successful man.”

Karzai is who he is, and the United States will very likely have to deal with him for years to come. Indeed, the intensifying Taliban pre-election violence might lead to the worst possible outcome: Karzai winning an election marked by irregularities and denied legitimacy in the eyes of many Afghans but not the power of the presidency.

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