The US built pressure on Hamid Karzai yesterday, with both Barack Obama and John Kerry signaling that a troop increase could hinge on a successful runoff election, and that the Obama administration would be receptive to a power-sharing deal between Karzai and his chief rival. A coalition government could provide a critical internal check on Karzai, who's widely favored to win the runoff Nov. 7.
Kerry, whose meetings with Karzai helped lead to the runoff agreement over the weekend, declared after meeting with Obama that it was "common sense" to wait until after the vote to decide troop levels. "You really want to know that this has worked," he said. Obama himself said the same in a television interview yesterday. One high-level US official in Afghanistan said the US is using the troop decision as leverage to ensure a clean runoff. Karzai's weak and corruption-riddled government has been blamed in part for the resurgence of the Taliban and for widespread Afghan civilian disillusionment.