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November 07, 2012

Afghans Reflect on Obama Win

by Sharon Behn

As Americans celebrate the re-election of President Barack Obama, citizens in Afghanistan - a country deeply affected by U.S. policy - are expressing their feelings about the outcome.

Whether on the crowded morning streets of the capital, Kabul, or in the comfort of their homes in front of their televisions, many Afghans, like government employee Zakirullah Shershah, welcomed the president's victory.
 
“We were watching the election," Shershah said. "Obama’s victory is important for the future of Afghanistan because Obama wants to end the war in Afghanistan and to pull out the troops, and that is a good sign for Afghans. His policies are very clear toward Afghanistan.”
 
The election results, Romney’s concession and Obama’s victory speech, were broadcast live on Afghan television, with live translations.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, on an official visit to Indonesia, issued a statement congratulating Mr. Obama on his win. Karzai said he hoped bilateral relations between Kabul and Washington would expand with Obama in the White House.
 
While many here did not see significant policy differences between the candidates when it came to Afghanistan, Obama appeared to be the favored choice.
 
Some Afghans had worried that Romney’s bellicose statements on neighboring Iran could have led to conflict with Tehran, further destabilizing Afghanistan.
 
Some Kabul residents said that Obama was a better choice for maintaining the relationship with Afghanistan -- a relationship that is increasingly on the mind of Afghans looking toward the 2014 departure of international combat forces.
 
One man, who gave his name as Qudratullah, said Afghanistan would benefit from having Obama in the White House for four more years.
 
“Obama’s victory will affect Afghanistan because he has worked for our country, compared to the Republicans, he is good for us,” he said.
 
The next two years of the relationship are not expected to be easy. Many analysts are skeptical of the Afghan government’s ability to take responsibility for the country’s security.
 
Shir Khosti, former governor of Ghazni province in central Afghanistan, laid out a list of expectations Afghans have of Mr. Obama's second administration.
 
“We hope America will play an instrumental role in the next four years in Afghanistan especially when it comes to reconciliation with Taliban, and also building a better government, a transparent government in Afghanistan, and more broadly also to help negotiate better deals with Pakistan and Iran when it comes to Afghan affairs and in terms of trade and other agreements,” said Khosti.
 
He added that many hope that President Obama will put more pressure on Pakistan and Iran to clamp down on terrorist and extremist networks.

In Pakistan,  President Asif Ali Zardari congratulated Obama on his win and said he looked forward to working closely with the president to improve security and stability in the region.
 
But university student Mohammad Usman in Islamabad said that while Pakistan remains important to U.S. counter-terrorism efforts, there is a feeling that it has been neglected by Washington.

“I think the Obama administration, now that they have got four more years, they should work with their allies and come up with a solution for this war on terror, " said Usman. "And I think that the interests of the victims of this war on terror should be a priority of the Obama administration.”
 
U.S. authorities say drone strikes in tribal areas of western Pakistan are an effective method of striking militants and al-Qaida-linked groups in the region, but they remain highly unpopular in Pakistan.