John McCaslin

We dropped into Teatro Goldoni on K Street to meet Miss America 2004 Ericka Dunlap - in town to brief Capitol Hill lawmakers on her diversity-and-inclusion platform - and instead interviewed Ishaq Shahryar, who two years ago became Afghanistan's first officially appointed ambassador to the United States in 23 years.

As Miss America listened, Shahryar provided The Beltway Beat with a progress report on his homeland.

"There is light in the tunnel," he begins. "Afghanistan is a success story - we have a new constitution, we have presidential elections, we have women serving again [in government]. I'm very happy and positive about our success."

Still, Shahryar cites persistent problems, not the least being terrorism.

"Drugs remain a problem, and with them come drug lords," he says, explaining that drug lords cooperate closely with and help fund terrorists. Yet he's optimistic these problems will one day cease to exist at such levels in Afghanistan.

"After 22 years of problems, you can't turn a country around in two years," he says.

A similar scenario in Iraq?

"I don't mind saying I think President Bush was right. I connect, I support his vision toward Iraq," he says. "In the past, the United States supported dictators and puppets. Now, for the first time, you have a U.S. president who supports the people of a country."

As for critics who say the U.S.-led intervention in Iraq has diverted attention from Afghanistan, leaving its emerging democratic government vulnerable?

"It did not divert attention away from Afghanistan," he replies. "Again, I share Mr. Bush's vision. In five to 10 years, you will see this seed that Mr. Bush planted flourish into a democracy."

During his credentials presentation to Bush in June 2002, Shahryar handed the president a poem written on Sept. 15, 2001, by his 10-year-old daughter, Jahan, titled "A Land of Freedom."

A world-renowned solar scientist, inventor and businessman, he passed his diplomatic credentials in December to Afghanistan's new ambassador to the United States, Said Tayeb Jawad.

LOADED LIBERALS

For a Southerner's take on the Democratic ticket of Sen. John Kerry and Sen. John Edwards, let's check in with Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia, vice chairman of the House Republican Conference.

Sir, tell us how you really feel.

"I would rather have my president know NASCAR from a church softball game than know sauvignon blanc from brie and merlot," he begins.

Are you suggesting this pair of Johns trying to unseat George W. Bush and Dick Cheney doesn't connect with the average Joe?


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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