The Afghan president is repelling a wave of criticism with defiant counter-attacks and verbal blows. But as NATO defence ministers meet in Krakow to discuss committing fresh troops to fight the Taliban, pressure is growing on Hamid Karzai to seize this last chance to win back international support.
Close to Bush
Though he may be articulating what many know to be wrong in Afghanistan, Mr Karzai’s new rhetorical offensive is reportedly not going down well in Washington, where he is already tainted in the eyes of many in the Obama team by his close ties to former President Bush.
As Barack Obama begins despatching 17,000 more US troops to Afghanistan, he will be demanding a lot more from Mr Karzai. Karzai is seen has having been ineffectual in stemming the resurgence of counter-narcotics and the corruption that comes with it; opium is thought to generate between 50-100 billion US dollar for the Taliban every year.
Mr Karzai’s own position is precarious indeed. He is facing a constitutional crisis, with a potential power vacuum of three months beginning when his term as president expires in May and ending when elections are held in August. The idea was to hold off the ballot until the new US surge would start to bear fruit, but there are no constitutional arrangements to deal with this delay.
Second, there is a chance that a credible challenger will emerge. Former Afghan interior minister Ali Jalali this week said he was considering the post. Another name that crops up is Gul Asha Sherzai, Kandahar‘s governor. Tellingly, it was Sherzai, not Karzai, that Mr Obama first visited during his trip to the country last year.
Previous Post on Sherzai
Mr Obama and NATO allies are likely to put their minds as to the future running of Afghanistan in April, when they meet in Strasbourg to map out a new strategy for the country. Although they may in the end decide to stick with Mr Karzai, their backing may come with many new demands that he may struggle to meet.
US troops set out on a patrol in Paktika province, Afghanistan, close to the Pakistan border. Photograph: David Furst/AFP/Getty Images
February 20, 2009
It’s been years since the Taliban were toppled from power in Afghanistan by American and British troops but the cost of continued Western military presence in the region is rising. More details in this report from Press TV’s correspondent in London, Fareena Alam.