The Karzai Rift

The Situation Room was filled with a host of national-security advisers yesterday as President Obama held a meeting on the war in Afghanistan. The team received updates on military progress and on the status of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s fight against corruption. General David Petraeus, commander of forces in Afghanistan, explained that the military is “now at the highest operational tempo to date” and making headway against the Taliban. U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry told Obama about “efforts to support enhanced governance and accountability” amid new tensions with Karzai caused by U.S. efforts to promote its law-enforcement approach to fighting corruption in Afghanistan. Repeatedly in the past, Karzai has been less than open to outside input on government affairs. This time around, American officials have decided it's best to step back a bit and take a more subtle approach.

One U.S.-launched anti-corruption effort was introduced by General Petraeus today. He ordered commanders of ISAF to keep tabs on how they’re spending U.S. money and make sure they don’t enable contracting corruption. Commanders have a set of guidelines to follow that include consulting local leaders, hiring more Afghans instead of outside contractors, and relying on intelligence reports to maintain “adequate oversight at all levels."

Special envoy Richard Holbrooke will travel to Pakistan this week to tour the country’s flood damage. His visit comes as the Pakistani army is on the defensive, struggling to keep up a relief effort while fighting Islamist insurgents. Holbrooke’s main goal is to assess “how we need to adapt our approach to Pakistan” in light of the flooding and an upcoming transition to reconstruction efforts. Though State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said Holbrooke may stray from that strict topic, adding that “knowing Richard, whenever he’s in Pakistan, he has the opportunity to interact with a wide range of Pakistani officials.”

And Stephen Bosworth met with the South Korean minister for unification and other government to discuss peace on the Korean peninsula. The special representative happened to mention the prospect of bilateral talks as part of the broader Six-Party Talks framework in a media appearance. Crowley tried to clarify the comment: “bilateral contacts can include any country within the Six-Party process, not just the United States.”