President Obama has yet to clearly explain to his country and to the international community what he intends to do in Afghanistan, and whether it is worth risking more troops. And he has not done so at least for the last month and a half, when it was disclosed that General Stanley McChrystal was urging the White House to send 40-45.000 additional troops to implement the strategy that the President had announced back in March.

An obstacle to the credibility of America is undoubtedly posed by the presence of Hamid Karzai at the helm of Afghanistan. It was certainly a success for US officials to expose the rigging that had taken place during the first electoral round and oblige Karzai to go for a second ballot. However, Karzai’s main challenger, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, complained that the President never met his demands to fire the top election official and take other measures to reduce fraud. "There is no guarantee that a second round would be free and fair. It would only create more problems than it solves," one of Abdullah’s aides had said.

The cancelled election can only further complicate matters for the Obama administration.

By now, even the Taliban know that the U.S. president is “dithering”.

One solution would to hold one’s nose and keep doing business with Karzai, despite the stench.

Another solution would be that America assume a tough stand around some basic principles, such as that it does not do business with regimes that are corrupt beyond any limit, especially when the survival of these regimes depends entirely upon the presence of American troops.

White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, has tried to defuse the atmosphere of disarray building up even among the President’s supporters: “I think the president strongly believes that it’s important for the American people and for the international community to know his reasoning behind whatever decision he makes, and to clearly explain our goals and objectives in Afghanistan and in Pakistan and the region as a whole.” -- which amounts to nothing more than smoke signals indicating that something might eventually happen. But obviously this is not enough. At this point, the President has the duty to send a message that America has a well-defined mission, a clear plan to execute, it and the unwavering determination to implement it.

In the US, opponents to the war are getting encouraged in their endeavour by the news that are coming from Afghanistan: October has been the deadliest month since 2001 for American forces, the CIA reportedly has a top Afghan figure on its payroll, despite his suspected links to drugs traffickers and the Taliban, and Hamid Karzai is still in charge in the country. The New York Times reported that even the Afghan President’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is on CIA’s payroll.

Although history tells us that Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires and this is what happened with the British and the Soviets, today’s Western coalition is not there to build an empire. Still, this is not self-evident, particularly for the Afghan and Pakistani people across the border. As a regular reader of the Pakistani press I cannot help being amazed by the incensed overtones of articles written on national newspapers that accuse the Western coalition of invading Muslim soil and pursuing an imperialistic agenda. Obama therefore should also clearly speak to the Afghans and Pakistanis, not with the apologetic tones he used in Cairo, where his main intent was to mark a divide with the previous administration, but as the Commander in Chief of a country and a coalition that, for the last eight years, has been trying to prevent the jihadist metastasis from spreading to the rest of the world.

But America must act fast or we will be back to solution number one: holding our noses will be a necessity.

To act, there must be leadership; this is what President Obama has so far failed to

give.

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