Daniel Korski

How do you solve a problem like Karzai?

How do you solve a problem like Karzai?
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A few days after President Barack Obama flew to Kabul to look Hamid Karzai in the eye and demand that he combat corruption, drugs, crime and the influence of notorious warlords in his government, President Karzai has blamed foreigners, including UN and EU officials, for "very widespread" fraud during presidential and provincial elections last year. He is quoted as telling a meeting of election officials: "There was fraud in presidential and provincial council elections - no doubt that there was a very widespread fraud, very widespread ... But Afghans did not do this fraud. The foreigners did this fraud."

As insane notions go this one is quite extraordinary – even by Karzai’s quixotic standards. And it demands a response. British soldiers are dying for both our and his people’s benefit. But he is behaving as if it was only to our benefit. When NATO troops stormed Marjah last month, President Karzai was nowhere to be seen. Expect the same when the fight now moves to Kandahar.

First of all, I hope that Peter Galbraith, the former UN envoy who has been accused of electoral fraud, takes President Karzai to court for libel. Though Karzai may ultimately be protected by virtue of his immunity, his statements should not be allowed to stand unchallenged.

But there is a bigger question of what to do with someone who is behaving in such a “troubling” way, to use the White House’s language. Our counter-insurgency strategy relies on him - and he is showing himself to be completely unreliable.  

It seems to me that there are five options: 1) Try to persuade the US that Karzai needs to be removed, constitutionally or forcefully; 2) Try to work around him as best it can be done; 3) Accept that there is nothing that can be done – and continue as before; 4) Remove him forcefully; and 5) Withdraw British troops. None of these options are attractive. Some are illegal and immoral. But his remarks demand that the various options be discussed anew.