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Obama’s era: In Kabul, a new US Commander-in-Chief

A pin drop...

Some guy from Tennessee shouted "Republicans suck!" when McCain came on the tube just now, but right away the shouting and screaming gave way to quiet. I'm in the bar now with Susan, the chief Obama organizer in Kabul, and she still can't contain herself. "I've spent three months doing this, and it's just so exciting." (I hear boos from the television room now; apparently McCain said something nice about Sarah Palin). Susan is brimming with enthusiasm about what Obama might mean for Afghanistan. "He's humble. He knows what he doesn't know. He's going to do great things, I can tell you that."

There are people here this morning from Oklahoma, from Florida, from Virginia, all the swing states. The morning was especially nail-biting for them. They're among the ones with tears in their eyes, I expect. I'm not going to pepper them with any bothersome questions right now. The beers are giving way to coffee, I just noticed.

"Three cheers for Joe the plumber," somebody just shouted.

And then, minutes later...

I wish I could sufficiently describe the euphoria in this crowded room. That gorgeous "Yes We Can" song just came over the loudspeakers.

"This is just so great," John Denoso just told me, raising his voice over the cheers. "It is just so great."

Denoso is a fresh-faced young worker from Bellingham who works in building IT capacity and infrastructure for the Afghan government. He told me his greatest hope is that Obama's victory will mean "a return to competence" in the American policy on Afghanistan, a more integrated approach that unites the U.S. military mission with the more comprehensive strategy long desired by the 39-army ISAF commitment, where Canada has taken such a leading role.

Denoso said everybody should expect Obama to also weave a more seamless military and development strategy that also takes into account the important work being undertaken here by non-government organizations and aid agencies. America needs to take a more credible lead in developing at least the semblance of a united front with some of the more problematic, key players in this country, such as Iran, Denoso said.

An Obama win was a slam dunk from the beginning, Denoso reckons. "The only question was how far to the left we could push it."

John Schroder from Seattle -- a tough-looking guy with a black baseball cap and a reluctance to talk about what kind of work he does here -- agreed. "I just hope Obama can dedicate as much attention to Afghanistan as he dedicated to his campaign," he said. "But I gotta go." He was taking a call on his cellular phone. "It's my mom calling from Seattle."

Terry Glavin, a Tyee columnist and widely published B.C. journalist, is in Afghanistan on a reporting assignment.

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