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.