Also, in Slate archives, there's an Aug. 9 story by Michael J. Kavanagh, as well as a three-day dispatch (Aug. 9, 10 and 13) from David Bosco.
Here's a bit from the Kavanagh piece, "Hamid Karzai and the Hopeless 22":
Few people I talked to in Afghanistan—save several warlords and the poppy-growers—were particularly happy with the interim head of a country that some Anglophone Afghans have taken to calling "Trashcanistan." One resident of Jalalabad summed up the feelings of many when he said: "Tell me about someone beside Karzai, and I will vote for them. But who is there?" With only a month to campaign, no money, and a media still in its fetal stage, it seems unlikely Afghans will go to the polls knowing much about any of Karzai's rivals.
And one more:
All the Afghans I talked to are thirsting for the chance to vote, and judging by the numbers that have registered, most Afghans share that sentiment. (The United Nations claims registration has reached 90 percent.) But rather than an election, many feel they're witnessing a coronation engineered not for the good of Afghanistan but for the political benefit of the Bush administration. One Afghan journalist told me he was thinking of writing John Kerry's name on the ballot. ("I have his campaign button in my office, and I pray toward it five times a day," he said.)
But the Afghan people have another way to make their ambivalence known to the international community. If none of the 23 candidates wins at least 50 percent of the vote, election rules call for a runoff. (It would most likely be between Qanooni and Karzai.) Ramadan and the winter snows could delay the runoff until spring. And though that might not be the best possible outcome for the country's stability, perhaps an extra six months would be enough time to send in more troops, run a prolonged campaign, and ensure that Afghanistan's first presidential election is truly democratic.