Hamid Karzai is suddenly the only game in town after Abdullah Abdullah’s withdrawal from a runoff election, and the Obama administration must figure out how to restore legitimacy to the Afghan president’s government and extend his influence outside of Kabul. It's critical that Karzai wins back the support of the Afghan people by tackling corruption and by strengthening the Afghan army, say US officials.
More than any other single factor, it's the strength of the Afghan army—and its ability to resist a Taliban takeover—that will determine whether the US can justify a military withdrawal. Karzai must act quickly. “We’re going to know in the next three to six months whether he’s doing anything differently—whether he can seriously address the corruption, whether he can raise an army that doesn’t lose troops as fast as we train them,” an official tells the New York Times. “Needless to say, this is not where we wanted to be after nine months.”