As Afghanistan braces for a run-off presidential election on Nov. 7, a probing interview with Abdullah Abdullah, President Hamid Karzai’s main challenger, offers insights into the leadership alternative for the troubled country. Dismissed as foreign minister by Karzai three years ago, Adbullah is now viewed by some as Washington’s favoured candidate. He denies that the US is anything but neutral. On other key points, Abdullah endorses Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s proposal—now being considering by President Barack Obama—for boosting the number of American troops in Afghanistan. “But it takes two to tango,” Abduallah says. “The other part is the Afghans—if they fail, it can’t work.” He denies rumours that he would accept a power-sharing deal with Karzai, vowing to push for “real change” in Kabul.