The media and mediators trying to patch up the relationship between President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai focused on their obligatory joint press conference. But perhaps it wasn't Wednesday's White House event that was the most meaningful meeting, but one Tuesday at Walter Reed Hospital, where Karzai visited soldiers injured defending his government.
"It was a very difficult moment for me, Mr. President," Karzai told his counterpart at the press conference. "To meet a young man, a very, very young man, who had lost two arms and legs. It was heart-rending. And there are others wounded too, just like I had seen in Afghanistan."
Maybe this was the reality check Karzai needed after his reckless response to U.S. pressure, which reportedly led him to claim "if you and the international community pressure me more, I swear I am going to join the Taliban."
The Taliban, of course, is the very enemy the wounded Walter Reed patient lost limbs trying to defeat. Karzai's comments came after U.S. pressure that he curb corruption and quit trying to pack his cronies on an intentionally independent electoral commission charged with investigating voting irregularities.
Understandably, the administration was taken aback. But then it backed itself into a public spat that threatened to hurt the war effort. While the administration was right on policy, the politics played into the Taliban's hands, and was counterproductive to the counterinsurgency strategy developed by the Pentagon.
So it's good to see that at least publicly, the relationship is back on track. Karzai is at best an unreliable partner, but he's the only partner available, and without him U.S. troops cannot begin their planned draw-down next year, let alone win the war.
And hopefully Karzai's "very difficult moment" at Walter Reed will last more than that, and indeed be the burning image he takes back to remember the sacrifices, including over 1,000 making the ultimate one, to keep him and his government in power.
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