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How Obama Plays in Afghanistan

November 10, 2008

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps  </span>
    We were driving through the desert Wednesday morning while Obama spoke in Chicago's Grant Park, but we watched the replay on CNN that night in our Kunduz hotel room. Photo: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

The world is buzzing about the U.S. election results, and Afghanistan is no exception. When we arrived at Mercy Corps' Kunduz office on Election Day, everyone there was quizzing us on the Electoral Vote count, and what states Obama was winning or close to it. In the days since, I've broached the subject with everyone from a group of young hotel employees to a trio of farmers in the hills east of Kunduz. Everyone had something to say about it.

"We hope that he will increase assistance to Afghanistan," said Syeed, a wheat farmer in Burka Province. He and his companions were happy about Obama's pledge of financial support to their country. "We will support anyone who says they will bring that kind of help to our country."

Many Afghans were elated about Obama's Muslim heritage, even if Obama himself is a Christian. "Simply having those roots in his family is big for us," said Enyatullah, one of our waiters at a Kunduz hotel. "Our religion has been seen as so terrible in the United States."

I was sure I'd hear at least some concern about Obama's pledge to send more U.S. troops to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Surprisingly, though, that's one of the reasons people said they were thrilled with Obama's election. Amanullah Amin, a civil engineer I spoke to, was convinced that Obama "will attack the roots of terror in the country. There is a saying here: If you want a clean river, don't go to the middle, don't go to the end — go to the source."