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Kerry Fans Come Together in Kabul

Expatriates in the Afghan capital call for 'regime change' in Washington.

June 27, 2004|Matthew Pennington | Associated Press Writer

KABUL — With armed Afghan guards at the gate and a Democratic donkey mascot munching leaves in the shade, dozens of American expatriates held a fundraiser here on Friday for the presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. John F. Kerry.

About 60 people, mostly nongovernment aid workers, gathered at a restaurant garden across town from the fortress-like American Embassy, declaring "Kabul for Kerry."

"It's important to show that there are Americans everywhere, even in Afghanistan, who want a change of leadership in the United States," said organizer Karen Hirschfeld, who is helping Afghans get ready for this year's national elections.

"For the future of Afghanistan, Iraq and America, we need someone with a more rational foreign policy who will work with the international community," said Hirschfeld, of Winchester, Mass. "We think John Kerry will be a good leader."

The gathering, open only to Americans, wasn't endorsed by the Kerry campaign, but "Kabul for Kerry" organizers were urging participants to contribute to his campaign and to cast absentee ballots against President Bush in the November election.

They pinned Kerry badges on the lapels of participants who paid $10 to cover the cost of the breakfast, and hired "Franklin the Democratic Donkey" from his Afghan owner to serve as the party mascot.

It's not clear whether Kerry or Bush is favored by the most Americans here. None of the thousands of U.S. military personnel based in Afghanistan to hunt for Al Qaeda and Taliban rebels came to Thursday's event.

Organizers said plenty of U.S. Embassy workers had expressed interest, but were barred from coming for security reasons -- although 11 Ministry of Interior guards were deployed there.

Ayan Hussein, 31, a health sector worker from Baltimore, said she wanted to do her bit to bring about a "regime change" back home in the United States.

Stephen Landrigan, 55, an education aid worker, said most of the people at the fundraiser probably were working on projects funded by the U.S. government, but still wanted Bush out of office.

"He's a man who can think, which we can't say about our current president," said Landrigan, who is from Boston.

Although many at the fundraiser said they had supported the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan to topple the Taliban for harboring Osama bin Laden, they deplored the war in Iraq and questioned current U.S. policies on Afghanistan.

Hirschfeld accused the Bush administration of pushing too hard for the first post-Taliban election in September -- which has been scheduled according to a constitutionally binding agreement but overshadowed by a virulent Taliban-led insurgency.

"The U.S. needs a foreign policy success before November by pulling off democratic elections in Afghanistan. I'm not sure the country is ready for it," she said.

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