Corridors of Power: Afghanistan, World Bank Leadership Changes?

Corridors of Power: Afghanistan, World Bank Leadership Changes?

KARZAI GOING? -- Are Hamid Karzai's days numbered as Afghanistan's president? Knowledgeable Afghan expatriates predict Karzai will probably not last out the year. Initially named interim president at Washington's insistence in 2001, he ran for the office virtually unopposed in Oct 2004 and was elected for a five-year term. But the Bush administration is losing confidence in his ability to take the necessary steps to halt Afghanistan's slide back into chaos.

Even if NATO forces are successful in containing the Taliban threat this summer, it's still up to Karzai's government to regain public confidence by cleaning up corruption, reforming the parliamentary system, making the police more effective, and taking decisive action against the huge narco trade. So far, there's been no sign of the presidential resolve needed to confront these challenges. His admission last month that he had been having reconciliation talks with the Taliban prompted rumors of a power-sharing deal with the Islamist fundamentalists.

A coalition with the Taliban (presumably leaving out al-Qaida) would reassure President Pervez Musharraf, who gives all the signs of not being convinced that the United States and its allies will be willing to stay the course in Afghanistan. Hence his reluctance to suppress the Taliban who have taken refuge in Pakistan: He needs them as insurance to fill in the power vacuum if the international community decides to pack it in. The Bush administration, of course, can't be happy to see Karzai playing footsie with the Taliban, the regime the U.S.-led alliance drove out of Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11 -- another reason for the informed speculation about Karzai's departure.

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