It’s a small gesture, but during a press briefing yesterday on coordinating NATO civilian-military planning with Afghan efforts, Amb. Richard Holbrooke, the administration’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, made sure to single out the country’s increasingly volatile president for conspicuous praise:
What made it different today, of course, was that we were in Kabul and the most senior members of the government were participating. While President Karzai’s participation was relatively brief, the fact that he visited us at all, the fact that he heard what we were doing, the fact that he endorsed it in front of his ministers carries great importance to us, and we greatly appreciate the fact that he took time to do it.
And on and on in that vein during the entire press conference. It’s a pretty cost-free way to lower the temperature of U.S.-Karzai relations. Last week, Sarah Palin and Liz Cheney chided the Obama administration for pressuring Karzai. Andrew Exum of the Center for a New American Security had a choice response to that.