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By Joshua Partlow

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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.

As part of the palace welcoming committee, Karzai also employed a giant, a seven-foot-tall Afghan man who palace staff chose to believe was the tallest man in the world. ” The giant napped on the floor, because the Afghans could not find a bed to fit him. General McChrystal once bought him two pairs of size 17 shoes, earning his gratitude to America. There were also, apparently, three midgets wandering around, and though I never saw them, one former British ambassador insisted they lived in a tree.

President Obama had cut the avuncular link that Karzai had established with President Bush. The White House wanted a new approach to this failing war, and coddling a man increasingly considered an ungrateful and ineffectual tribal chieftain was not how it intended to find one. American officials believed that Karzai tolerated flagrant government corruption and had failed to extend his administration very far beyond the walls of his palace. ” As election day approached, American diplomats and spies were hearing that Karzai’s supporters were preparing to keep him in power by any means.

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A Kingdom of Their Own by Joshua Partlow

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