KABUL, Afghanistan — The man tipped to become Afghanistan’s next leader said he would break with outgoing President Hamid Karzai and try to repair ties with the United States and the rest of the West.
“President Karzai followed the line in the past few years especially which [was] very much anti-American and anti-international community,” Karzai’s former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, 53, told NBC News. “That should not be the case anymore … it will be very different.”
“The situation is different in Afghanistan in comparison to Iraq ... Hopefully that scenario will not be applicable in Afghanistan.”
Signing the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) — which Karzai refused to do thus worsening already strained ties with the United States — would allow a “framework” for the two countries to work together for ten years and more, he said. Thousands of troops from the United States and other NATO countries have been based in Afghanistan since the hard line Taliban was toppled at the end of 2001.
Abdullah, a medical doctor and close confidant of the slain anti-Soviet and anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, will face-off with Ghani, an who spent decades studying and working in the United States. Ghani, and economist, won 31 percent of the vote in the first round of the vote, while Abdullah garnered 45 percent.
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Ghani, a member of the Pashtun majority, has built formidable alliances with Uzbek and Hazara minorities, although isn’t thought to have made strong inroads among the Tajiks, the second-largest ethnic group in the country.
Abdullah, meanwhile, is the product of a mixed Tajik-Pashtun marriage but is seen to identify with the Tajik population. He has secured the backing of several important Pashtun politicians, however, which is expected to give him a needed boost.
But whoever wins will take over a deeply troubled country. Afghanistan, one of the world’s poorest nations where one woman in 11 will die while giving birth or in pregnancy, is wracked by violence and corruption, and deeply dependent on foreign civilian and military aid.
When asked whether he was worried that Afghanistan would suffer the same fate as Iraq, where al Qaeda- linked militants have taken control of swathes of the country and are threatening to overrun the capital Bagdhad, after an American troop withdrawal, Abdullah answered: “Hopefully not.”
“The situation is different in Afghanistan in comparison to Iraq,” said Abdullah, who has survived attempts on his life, including a twin suicide car bomb attack on. “Hopefully that scenario will not be applicable in Afghanistan.”