We don't know yet who will prevail in Afghanistan's approaching presidential runoff, but we already know the big winner -- the Afghan people. The big loser, of course, is the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies.
The first-round voting generated widespread excitement and high turnout, reflecting Afghans' desire to choose their own leader, launching two experienced, pro-Western technocrats into the runoff. And despite the chorus of complaints that America is abandoning Afghanistan, the vote caps a five-year turnaround, when the U.S.-led "surge" of military and development aid salvaged a situation trending towards defeat.
Today Afghanistan is becoming able to defend and develop itself; it is not the basket case ill-informed reports suggest. Indeed, as security concerns fade, the inward focus on economic and social challenges reveals the growing normalization of Afghan politics. The main threat it faces now comes, ironically, from the international community, where patience is wearing thin and pressures for a too-rapid drawdown of support could turn impending success into failure.
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