By Joshua Partlow
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Additional info for A Kingdom of Their Own
He ruled, essentially, by decree. Each day his aides brought him dozens of orders to sign: military promotions, execution orders, land transfers, medals of honor. His edicts could free convicted murderers or sentence men to death. He could shut down companies, impose new taxes. He established special commissions to investigate American air strikes and special courts to rule on financial scandals. He traded government sinecures for political support. He ordered money to be given to the families of bombing victims, declared national days of mourning, convened emergency sessions of parliament.
In a meeting with Afghan and foreign election official monitors in Kabul, Holbrooke let slip “I hate that guy” when the topic of Karzai came up. In a mid-February meeting at Ambassador Eikenberry’s residence, Holbrooke asked his fellow diplomats if they could live with Karzai for another five years. ” he asked. He then suggested Haneef Atmar, the popular Pashtun interior minister. ” Holbrooke had also urged the parliamentarian Mirwais Yasini to join the race—a fact Yasini would mention to other American diplomats.
When thrust into the world’s spotlight, he had debated with his aides what type of image to portray to his rural, undereducated citizenry. Afghans were then largely unfamiliar with telephones, television, and the Internet, a nation of illiterate peasant farmers in mud huts emerging from a regime where they had been forced to give up music, movies, raising pigeons, and flying kites, where the women could not work outside the home and the men had to grow beards, where adultery or unfaithfulness or any number of sins against the Islamic dictates established by the Taliban could be punished by severed hands, rifle execution, or public stoning.