Nearly eight years after the fall of the Taliban, Hamid Karzai comes to the White House today to meet an administration distinctly unimpressed with his governance of Afghanistan. In interviews with two dozen Washington officials, the Washington Post finds anger and frustration with a president overseeing a weak and corrupt government, but who nevertheless seems a shoo-in for reelection this summer. "On all fronts," said one senior official, "Hamid Karzai has plateaued as a leader."
Barack Obama was unimpressed by Karzai's "happy talk" on drugs and security when they met last year in Kabul, and since his election they have only spoken twice—while Karzai and George W. Bush held videoconferences twice a month. Washington is seeking to bypass Karzai, collaborating with other cabinet members and local governors, and is eager to see challengers in the election. "We have to build a bottom-up dynamic to counterbalance Karzai," said one senior official. "We don't have a choice."