After months of questioning Afghan President Karzai's legitimacy, effectiveness, and even sanity, the Obama administration went on a "charm offensive" this week, pulling out all the stop to win over the unsteady U.S. ally. At a joint press conference, Karzai and Obama papered over their disagreements and said they are mostly on the same page regarding U.S. policy in Afghanistan. But beneath the bonhomie, is Karzai a reliable ally in our war against al Qaeda and the Taliban? (Watch an AP report about Obama and Karzai working together)
Karzai's the best option we've got: Not only was the Obama-Karzai nice-making "a touching piece of theater," says David Ignatius in The Washington Post — it was smart politics. Clearly, the prior strategy of "public tongue-lashing[s]" for the "mercurial" and insecure leader wasn't working. Obama seems to have accepted, belatedly, that he and Karzai "are stuck with each other."
"The Obama and Karzai play nice"
The Afghan president would prove his worth — if we'd let him: Not only are we stuck with each other, says Hillary Mann Leverett in Politico, Karzai remains "the only potential partner Washington has in Kabul." But rather than try to bully him into fighting America's war, Obama needs to understand what Karzai can accomplish — for instance, a peace deal with the Taliban — and follow his lead to make it a reality.
"What Hamid Karzai has to offer"
Karzai still has some explaining to do: Obama seems willing to let Karzai steer the train, says Katie Paul in Newsweek, but we need a better sense of "where exactly the Karzai Express is actually headed." Will the Taliban even show up to talk peace with him? And how much is Karzai willing to cede to America's enemy? The "barrage of niceness" was a good way to talk to Karzai, but it's too soon to shift "from sticks to carrots" entirely.
"Karzai's notably un-notable visit to Washington"