US to Karzai: Clean Up Corruption or ... Nothing

Threatening troop withdrawal like threatening suicide: 'stupid'
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 12, 2009 11:59 AM CST
Afghan incumbent President Hamid Karzai greets the media after a press conference in Kabul, Thursday Aug. 20, 2009.    (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

(Newser) – President Obama is gravely serious about pressuring Hamid Karzai to reel in Afghan corruption—but has almost zero “or else” options. The most logical threat to entice Karzai to clean up his government, pulling out US troops, is “stupid,” a former ambassador tells the New York Times, as it would destabilize the region and run entirely counter to our interests. “And Karzai knows that.”

The ambassador compares that sort of pressure to a scene in Blazing Saddles where a character “holds the gun to his own head and threatens to shoot himself.” One meager option would be to pull some troops and switch to the limited counter-insurgency approach favored by Joe Biden. Experts feel Karzai is propped up by the US’s centralized military presence, and would justifiably fear his own overthrow if it were dissipated, making him more amenable to US demands.