For Afghanistan, Obama Looks Beyond Karzai

Washington loses patience, courts rivals as election looms
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 23, 2009 7:52 AM CST
For Afghanistan, Obama Looks Beyond Karzai
President George W. Bush walks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Obama administration has a less rosy view of Afghanistan's leadership.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Four key rivals of Hamid Karzai have arrived in Washington for meetings with the Obama administration, as speculation grows that the Afghan president may lose the backing of the United States. Once seen as America's best hope in Afghanistan, Karzai has seen his standing deteriorate as widespread corruption and worsening violence leave him weakened. One analyst in Kabul told the Independent that Obama "is not going to blindly back President Karzai like the Bush administration did for so long."

Karzai had hoped that Hillary Clinton would offer her support, but last week the new secretary of state branded Afghanistan a "narco-state" and called his government "plagued by limited capacity and widespread corruption." While the four rivals come from different ethnic backgrounds and could fracture the anti-Karzai vote, Washington is hoping that as a "dream ticket" they could unseat the president. Karzai faces the voters in a presidential election this summer.
(More Afghanistan stories.)

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