As America's longest war finishes its tenth year, the fate of its mission there remains in the hands of President Hamid Karzai, a leader the U.S. can neither live with nor live without. Frustration in Washington over Karzai's tolerance of corruption and his evasion of democratic accountability remains as high as ever. But with the Taliban rampant and the U.S.-led NATO mission spinning its wheels as it eyes a 2014 exit, Karzai remains the only game in town. He seems to be hedging his bets; on the one hand he sends out negotiating feelers to the Taliban, while on the other accommodating the constituencies at the core of his regime who virulently oppose rapprochement with the movement. He even went so far as to convene a 'loya jirga' gathering of tribal elders in search of a mandate to agree to a long-term arrangement to keep U.S. military bases on Afghan soil long after 2014 an outcome anathema to the Taliban. Doubts over Afghanistan's future grow as the rift between the U.S. and Pakistan steadily widens, but Karzai looks set to improvise his way through another year in power.
Next Gen. Ashfaq Kayani