Obama and Karzai

By Lindsey Ellerson

Nov 2, 2009 7:05pm

President Obama has not yet made his decision about a new strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Whereas the President was waiting for the previously scheduled November 7 Afghan run-off election to make his announcement, now that the run-off has been scrapped, the President’s announcement could come any day.


Today’s news that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is now the officially re-elected leader of that country will indubitably impact his decision, not that it was a surprise.


Is the White House “pleased” — as President Obama said — that Karzai was re-elected?


Senior administration officials say they’re pleased that the worst case scenario didn’t happen and the process didn’t collapse into a constitutional crisis.


And they’re pleased the process is over and they know who they have to deal with.


But as for their feelings about Karzai — the president spoke to Karzai today and delivered a message you will hear in the coming weeks from the administration and the international community — a new push for Karzai to reach objectives dealing with governance and anti-corruption.


You heard an interesting hair-splitting by the administration today – they called Karzai legitimate, as in the election process was fair, but they did not call him a credible partner for the US.


They’re saying to him he needs to prove his credibility. 


The weaknesses of Karzai and his government have been highlighted for the White House by this whole election process, issues of good governance and corruption and a lack of basic infrastructure.


The strategy the President picks will need to take into account, therefore, a weak federal government.


There will be more focus on the provincial and regional governments; as well as more ways to assess progress made by the Karzai government – perhaps benchmarks.   


That said, officials say this is a legitimate window of opportunity for Karzai.

-jpt

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