Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010

Hamid Karzai

As the U.S. starts contemplating its planned summer 2011 drawdown in Afghanistan, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been forced to start considering the prospect of running his fragile, chaotic country without the world's most powerful military to prop him up. The odds have long been stacked against Karzai, the first President of the nascent republic, and 2010 proved to be particularly trying in his attempts to make Afghanistan a legitimate, governable state. Accusations of widespread fraud have bedeviled a round of parliamentary elections that were originally scheduled for May but did not take place until September. Karzai, whose re-election last year was tainted by corruption charges, has also had to grapple with allegations of graft from within his family. In spite of concern over his potential involvement in the drug trade, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the President's half brother, remains the leader of the provincial council of the volatile Kandahar province. With no end in sight to the country's fundamentalist insurgency, Hamid Karzai has shown a willingness to be both pragmatic and independent in his dealings with the Taliban insurgency and the U.S. He's called the U.S. war plan "ineffective" for not focusing more on Pakistan, gotten NATO to sign on to his plan to negotiate with the Taliban and conceded that his government has been receiving financial aid from Iran, its neighbor to the west. It was an unsurprising revelation that nevertheless made clear Karzai's intention to seek Afghan solutions for Afghan problems no matter what his backers think.