Written by Dr. Edward Liebow, Executive Director of the American Anthropological Association
The American Anthropological Association extends its warm congratulations to Dr. Ashraf Ghani, the newly elected president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Dr. Ghani, who has formed a unity government with his electoral opponent, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, is trained as an anthropologist, receiving his MA and PhD from Columbia University. Upon earning his doctorate, he taught anthropology at the University of California-Berkeley (1983) and then at Johns Hopkins University (1983-1991). In 1991, Dr. Ghani joined the World Bank as lead anthropologist, advising on the human dimension to economic programs. Following the ouster of the Taliban regime in late 2001, Ghani served as Special Advisor to Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN Secretary General's special envoy to Afghanistan. In that capacity, he worked on the design, negotiation and implementation of the Bonn Agreement, which set out the roadmap for transition to a new government. During the Interim Administration, Dr Ghani served, on a pro bono basis, as Chief Adviser to Interim President Karzai. In this capacity, he worked on the preparation of the Loya Jirgas (grand assemblies) that elected President Karzai and approved the Constitution. As Finance Minister during the Transitional Administration, Ghani issued a new currency, computerized operations of treasury, introduced the budget as the central instrument of policy, centralized revenue and instituted regular reporting to the cabinet, the people of Afghanistan and international stakeholders as a tool of transparency.
Formidable challenges face the new government, from deep social divisions to operating budget shortfalls and significant deficits to overcome in public facilities and services. We wish the Dr. Ghani and the new government every success, and hope that historians will look back on this as an important case study in governance fully informed by both formal social science training and a lifetime of practical experience.