What has really riled Karzai is Holbrooke’s fraternization with Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister and presumed presidential candidate. When I briefly advised Lord Ashdown in the run-up to his non-appointment as the UN’s special envoy in Kabul, Karzai was extremely paranoid that Ashdown and Ghani were somehow colluding or that the former was merely a tool for the latter’s leadership ambitions. Long after Ashdown had withdrawn his candidature for the job, the British ambassador had to reassure Karzai that nothing untoward was afoot. So the rumours that Ghani’s closest associate, the excellent Clare Lockhart—see this piece she wrote for The Spectator recently, may join the Holbrooke team will probably lead to some crockery being hurled around in the Presidential Compound.
The irony of course, is that while Karzai blocked Ashdown’s appointment because he feared being overshadowed as well as because of a (non-existent) link to Ghani, the Afghan leader will now have to deal with a real bruiser with a real link to his political opponent. Such is the price of tactics without strategy – a hallmark of the Karzai presidency.