Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009

Hamid Karzai

Once a favorite of the U.S., President Hamid Karzai this year found himself recast in Washington as an obstacle to progress in Afghanistan. A steady drumbeat of allegations about endemic corruption in his administration gave way to a crescendo of condemnation of the widespread ballot fraud in his August re-election. But Karzai is the consummate survivor, and he managed to re-emerge as the linchpin of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. Washington now hopes that the prospect of a Western withdrawal from the nation beginning in mid-2011 will pressure Karzai to give his own people a government worth fighting for. It could also prompt him to hedge his bets.

—Massimo Calabresi