THE PLANK NOVEMBER 20, 2009
The WaPo's Rajiv Chandrasekaran reports that the Obama administration has decided to try a little tenderness with Hamid Karzai:
The new approach, which one official described as a "reset" of the relationship, will entail more engagement with members of Karzai's cabinet and provincial governors, officials said, because they have concluded that the Afghan president lacks the political clout in his highly decentralized nation to purge corrupt local warlords and power brokers. The CIA has sent a longtime field officer close to Karzai to be the new station chief in Kabul. And State Department envoy Richard C. Holbrooke, whose aggressive style has infuriated the Afghan leader at times, is devoting more attention to shaping policy in Washington and marshaling international support for reconstruction and development programs.
Of course, this is Obama's second "reset" of the relationship with Afghanistan, since he took office vowing to take a harder line with Karzai than Bush did. But it does sound as if Obama isn't planning to get quite as chummy with Karzai as Bush was. This NYT article suggests that Hillary Clinton will be the administration's primary Karzai whisperer. Let's hope that Clinton's better at private diplomacy than she is at the public version. (And if you don't know what I'm talking about, check out Crowley's Hillary article in the current print issue.)