Donald Trump and the 2016 election have Americans coast-to-coast talking politics. A world away in Afghanistan, where the U.S. has stationed troops since 2001 and spent hundreds of billions of dollars on a war and reconstruction, the U.S. presidential election is also big topic of conversation. I was recently in Kabul, working on my own projects, and I found myself frequently in the middle of conversations about American politics.
Literally from the moment I was wheels-down at the airport to the taxi ride back to the airport on my way home, the questions started, usually something like, “who are you voting for and why is Donald Trump so popular?” It was sweet chai and American politics in Afghanistan for nearly a month. While foreign policy has been a big part of the conversation politically in the U.S., in Afghanistan, it goes far beyond talk. American Foreign Policy has affected the lives of countless Afghans, some for better and some for worse.
The Afghans I met were not merely versed in our political system — they were eloquent. Many were shocked that the Americans who helped rebuild their country would now consider voting for someone who looked to them hostile to American values. I expected Afghans to care just about U.S. foreign policy or be focused on the war, but we typically discussed a wide range of issues, from immigration to the U.S. economy.
Many Afghans were confused, for instance, as why so many Americans believe their jobs are going to Mexico, to immigrants, and to “economies change,” as one afghan who did not want to be named due to security concerns put it. It’s worth noting here, too, that U.S. presidential elections don’t just affect U.S. citizens. American power — military, economic, cultural — can be felt all over the world. Whoever wields it as president is felt, too. So, if Afghans could vote, who might they vote for? I asked and they answered in this video.