Packer talks to Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan’s finance minister from 2002 to 2004, and Hamid Karzai's newest challenger for the presidency of Aghanistan:
Ghani is a slight, balding man with a gentle voice and a keen mind; his background is in social sciences (he has a PhD in anthropology from Columbia) and the World Bank. He’s the technocratic alternative to the politics of warlordism and corruption, and he’s deeply fluent in the language of international development: words like “stakeholder” and “governance sector” come easily to his tongue. Ghani’s account of what’s gone wrong in Afghanistan is relatively simple, and it overlaps on several counts with the views of the Obama Administration: the Taliban was in retreat until the Bush Administration took its eye off of Afghanistan and invaded Iraq. Since then, Karzai has been held to Iraq’s low standard of security and competence, by which he’s been wrongly judged to have done relatively well. Ghani resigned as finance minister at the end of 2004 because he saw that Karzai was unwilling to take on power brokers that were the sources of corruption and government failure. Since then, the Taliban has made a spectacular comeback, largely due to these failures, and only a change of government will reverse the deterioration.