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Bush's former Iraq ambassador to seek Afghan presidency

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/bushs-former-iraq-ambassador-to-seek-afghan-presidency-842477.html Bush s former Iraq ambassador to seek Afghan
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 7, 2008
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      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/bushs-former-iraq-ambassador-to-seek-afghan-presidency-842477.html

      Bush's former Iraq ambassador to seek Afghan
      presidency

      With Hamid Karzai seen as ineffective, many people are
      looking to someone with serious influence in
      Washington

      By Kim Sengupta in Kabul
      Sunday, 8 June 2008

      In his time, he has been President George Bush's point
      man in Baghdad, Kabul and the UN, as well as a
      lobbyist for both the Taliban and international oil
      companies. Now Zalmay Khalilzad is preparing to run
      for the presidency of his native Afghanistan.

      Representatives of Mr Khalilzad, currently US
      ambassador to the UN, have discreetly sounded out
      various factions to ascertain his chances in the
      election scheduled for 2009. Although the incumbent,
      Hamid Karzai, is expected to run again, he is
      increasingly unpopular at home while his Western
      backers see him as ineffectual against the Taliban.

      Three meetings have been held with opposition groups
      in recent months to promote Mr Khalilzad, pictured, as
      a "unifying" candidate in a country where deep
      divisions have begun to emerge between the Pashtun
      communities of the south and the Tajiks, Uzbeks and
      Hazaras of the north.

      Mr Khalilzad, a Pashtun, was born in Laghman province
      in the south-east of the country, but raised in
      Mazar-i-Sharif in the north. He is on good terms with
      some former leaders of the Northern Alliance who have
      split from the Karzai government.

      Speculation about the 56-year-old Mr Khalilzad's
      political ambitions sparked into life when he gave a
      TV interview, saying he was placing himself "at the
      service of the Afghan people". He was also said to be
      considering resigning from his post at the UN. The
      highest-ranking Muslim in the US administration, he
      was made the effective viceroy of Afghanistan after
      the 2001 invasion by President Bush before being moved
      on to Iraq to sort out the mess left by Paul Bremer.

      The candidacy of Mr Khalilzad, a Rhodes scholar who
      has spent most of his adult life in the US and has an
      American wife, may come as a surprise, but many Afghan
      commentators say he would enjoy a high degree of
      support.

      "A lot of people in this country feel that things were
      getting done while he was in charge and have
      deteriorated since he left," said Waheed Muzhda, a
      leading political analyst. "He kept the warlords much
      more in check, the Taliban had not come back and
      corruption was nothing like as bad as it is now. His
      close connection with the US government is actually in
      his favour. Many see Karzai as a US puppet anyway, so
      the feeling is, why not have someone who has got some
      actual influence in Washington, and can do some good
      for Afghanistan?"

      Diplomatic sources agree that Mr Khalilzad seems to be
      using his UN post to pave the way for a run at the
      Afghan presidency. He was accused of undermining the
      prospect of Paddy Ashdown becoming the UN
      representative in Afghanistan because he didn't want a
      heavyweight international figure, controlling a huge
      budget, as a potential rival.
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