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Obama should tell Karzai it's time to resign

Karzai’s failed leadership is preventing the US from succeeding in Afghanistan.

By Nasir Shansab / May 12, 2010

Herndon, Va.

America’s hopes for a reliable partner in Afghanistan were crushed as soon as the Obama administration based its strategy on a partnership with President Hamid Karzai. Today, security in Afghanistan is more fragile than before the military surge. Yet, Washington policymakers insist that we’re on the right track.

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We’re not. According to Pentagon’s April Report on Progress toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan, 29 percent of Afghans rate US and NATO forces as good, a drop from 38 percent in December. The Pentagon study also concludes that out of 121 important districts, only 29 could be classified as sympathetic to the Afghan government.

While Karzai’s government loses ground, the Taliban have expanded the war into northern Afghanistan and slipped back into Marjah, the town American troops recently freed from Taliban occupation.

Despite this, the Obama administration is backing away from its earlier tough rhetoric toward Karzai. Instead, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Obama, and senior officials are treating him like a trusted friend during his visit to Washington this week. Apparently, they’ve concluded that they’re stuck with Karzai, so they better work with – rather than against – the Afghan president.

That’s not a strategy for success, and it assumes that Washington has no options. But it does. Instead of playing nice, the Obama administration should force Karzai to resign.

Without a reliable and capable partner in Kabul, US strategy will fail. If Karzai stays in power, the massive US sacrifice in blood and treasure to create a stable country free from terrorist infiltration will be wasted. Consider the evidence:

1. Despite promising to fight corruption, Karzai continues to shield high-level officials from prosecution. The percentage of Afghans who claim that corruption affects their lives rose from 79 percent in September 2009 to 83 percent in March 2010.

2. It recently was uncovered that Kabul Bank, Afghanistan’s largest private bank, has spent at least $150 million in real estate purchases in Dubai for the benefit of some of Afghanistan’s political elite. Mahmoud Karzai, the president’s brother, is among the beneficiaries, having reportedly received a gift of an expensive house.