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The President, the Strongman, and the Next U.S. Headache in Afghanistan

Last Thursday, Mr. Noor, wearing black clothes and sunglasses while ferried in a convoy of gloss-black armored vehicles, arrived at the governor’s office late in the afternoon. His aides said he had been up much of the night, pacing the room on the phone or holding private audiences with visitors from Kabul.

As he listened to a long list of speakers in one auditorium, visitors were being seated into two adjacent halls where Mr. Noor would speak next. He seemed tired, trying to hide his yawns as speaker after speaker called him lion, king, emperor. To each platitude, Mr. Noor simply bowed his head, his hand on his chest.

But when Mr. Noor took the podium, there was no sign of exhaustion. Once again, he lashed out at the government in Kabul. He said his party leaders were trying to negotiate a solution in the capital, and that would be the only way out. But he asked his supporters to be ready for civil protest — to have their “old tires” ready for burning to block roads.

The speech quickly turned into an election rally, with Mr. Noor saying the leaders of the government in Kabul were blind to Afghans’ suffering through years of war.

“If I become president one day … ” Mr. Noor said, baiting the crowd. And they roared in response.

Then, gripping the podium — a $ 27,000 Omega watch on his wrist, a garnet ring with a halo of about 20 small diamonds on his finger — Mr. Noor talked about corruption. He said the central government was rife with graft, as the two coalition leaders fattened their own allies.

While a teacher was making $ 200 or less a month, he said, Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah were paying hundreds of useless advisers $ 5,000, $ 6,000, or more. And how much was the cost of renting an armored vehicle for each adviser?

“They are sucking the blood of the people,” Mr. Noor said.

Source: NYT > World

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