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What if Karzai Wins the Election?

Erin Simpson makes the good point that Hamid Karzai is being underestimated. This seems difficult to argue with. If the Bush administration had an Afghanistan policy that was reduced to supporting Karzai, the Obama administration is treating him like the guest at 3 a.m. who wants one more round of Guitar Hero.

Christian Brose went to Munich and said that National Security Adviser Jim Jones practically strangled Karzai with his glare during a fantasy-inflected speech about how rad things are in Afghanistan. One of the advisers to Gen. David Petraeus’ strategy review is Clare Lockhart, who knows practically everything there is to know about innovative development efforts in Afghanistan — I had a conversation with her on Friday and came away extremely impressed with her thinking. She’s also very close with Ashraf Ghani, who’s expected to announce his candidacy for the Afghan presidency any day now. (Reuters identifies Ghani as an out-and-out “presidential contender” in this interview write-up.) If you were in the Karzai government, how would you view that?

The point is not to defend Karzai. It’s that you don’t want to box yourself in a position where you bet on one contender or another. See Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s butter-soft remarks in Israel with both Shimon Peres and Tzipi Livni for an example of how to elide embracing an unsettled government. The opposition to Karzai is disunited, unproven and may have the calendar working against it. How smart is it to keep sending Karzai the stinkeye?

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