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US must focus on upcoming leadership change in Afghanistan

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Meanwhile, concern is growing in Kabul that Mr. Karzai may attempt to “pull a Putin” at the next election.

As with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2008, Karzai is not eligible to run for a third term. However, it is now speculated that he will hand pick a successor who will serve as president while Karzai retains his strongman status and runs the show from behind the scenes – keeping the seat warm until Karzai’s return.

Depending on whom Karzai might pick as his successor, such a move would spark outrage among many in Afghanistan, specifically among members of the opposition group, the erstwhile Northern Alliance. 

Several names are in play, including Qayum Karzai, the president’s multimillionaire older brother, influential in Afghan politics and security.

However, President Karzai’s personal favorite may be Farooq Wardak, the current minister of education. Like Karzai, Mr. Wardak is a Pashtun. The two have a close relationship. If Karzai chooses to publicly announce his support for a potential Wardak candidacy, that could garner widespread public support among Pashtun voters who would likely rally to get him elected. Despite his lack of charisma, Wardak is regarded as one of Karzai’s most competent cabinet ministers.

True or not, there is a growing perception in Afghanistan that the US is trying to be a political kingmaker in domestic politics. Recent outreach to Afghan political figures by several members of Congress has emboldened this perception.

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