Incumbent Afghan president Hamid Karzai is clearly feeling the breath of his main rival in the presidential contest on the back of his neck. He haughtily declined to debate his leading rivals earlier this summer. But on Sunday, he went on television to debate two of them. A third leading rival, Abdullah Abdullah, refused to participate, though he had been present at an earlier debate.
Then Karzai brought back from Turkey the Uzbek warlord Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, who will campaign with Karzai in Shebarghan, his home town, in the north. Despite his acts of brutality, Dostam remains popular in Afghanistan’s north, and Karzai’s campaign hopes he can swing a million votes to the incumbent and perhaps allow him to win in the first round. Dostam is under investigation for an alleged prisoner massacre, but a Karzai spokesman said that there was no legal bar to Dostam’s return. Karzai is playing the Warlord card against Abdullah Abdullah, which may help the incumbent retain power in Kabul. But building up the warlords only legitimizes their control of 60% of the country, and makes it more likely that the warlords will eventually find a way to marginalize Karzai altogether.
Aljazeera English reports on women voters in Afghanistan and the challenges they face:
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