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Reasons to back Afghanistan's Karzai

Mark Mardell | 16:23 UK time, Tuesday, 13 October 2009

American hard-headed foreign policy, giving succour and aid to dubious foreign leaders, used to be summed up in FDR's alleged phrase "he may be a son of a bitch, but at least he's our son of a bitch".
He may never have said it, but it perfectly summed up a sort of realpolitik justification that was used throughout the Cold War to justify support for all sorts of unsavoury dictators.

That won't be the current White House's approach to the about-to-be democratically elected leader of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai. Only in their dreams. It's almost two months after the election and still the votes haven't all been counted. But it is pretty clear he will emerge the winner, and almost certain there won't be a second round.

Karzai has been on morning TV in America, attacking the view that the elections were flawed by fraud on a pretty massive scale, as alleged by a now sacked UN diplomat, the former US ambassador to Croatia.

"There were irregularities. There must've also been fraud committed, no doubt. But the election was good and fair and worthy of praise, not of scorn, which the election received from the international media. That makes me very unhappy. That rather makes me angry."

The Americans may not regard Mr Karzai with any great enthusiasm, they may not think he is a reliable partner. Indeed, the allegations about the elections have led to much of the head-scratching in the White House about strategy in Afghanistan. They want to know that he is serious about governing on behalf of all the people, in their best interests. They worry about how they can sell nation-building to the American people while he is in charge.

Yet it seems a decision has been taken that, whatever they think of him, whoever's side he is on, he will win, and so he has to be backed. There's perhaps an acknowledgement that in the past their support for him was far too lukewarm and the hope that the election would have a different result whispered too freely.

Now, it seems, the administration has told the once-and-future president that they will give him their fullest support. More a case of "he's his own man, but he's got to be ours too".

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