Dismissed by Washington as an incompetent unable to cope with the situation, President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai turned viciously anti-American and began seeking aide from Russia.

US President Barack Obama said official Washington was working on a strategy of withdrawal from Afghanistan. This withdrawal is supposed to be executed after a major US and NATO counter-terrorism operation in this country. Presidential election slated for August is to become one of its elements. The opinion in Washington is that Hamid Karzai cannot cope with the situation and should be replaced. Karzai himself refuses to step down and threatens to turn to Moscow for help against all attempts to displace him.

Obama proclaimed Afghanistan the high priority of US foreign policy on his very first day in the Oval Study. The US Army will dispatch an additional military contingent (17,000 men) to this country by April. Supported by NATO contingents already there, it will mount an offensive against the Taliban that controls a sizeable part of Afghanistan and the border with Pakistan. The White House promised to advertise strategy of actions in Afghanistan in time for the NATO summit in early April. Obama outlined objectives of this strategy in an interview with CBS. He said the United States needed a detailed strategy of withdrawal from Afghanistan which was essentially the objective of the whole operation.

Approach of the new US Administration to Afghanistan seriously differs from the one practiced by George W. Bush. Speaking before the Congress before her endorsement, would-be US State Secretary Hillary Clinton called Afghanistan a “drug state” and condemned its government as corrupt. US Vice President Joe Biden is even more critical of Karzai in Kabul. According to the American media, his two latest meetings with the president of Afghanistan ended in scandals.

The Guardian in the meantime reported the US Administration charting a plan of step-by-step removal of Karzai from the seat of power in Kabul. Official Washington was reported assured of the necessity to introduce the post of prime minister in Afghanistan so that the premier would restrict the president’s individual rule.

Washington’s eagerness to see Karzai gone is further fomented by impending expiry of his term of office. Election of the president was to take place in April but the Afghani Central Electoral Commission shifted the voting day to August.

The additional US Army contingent meanwhile arrives in April. Delay with the election is not playing into Karzai’s hands at all. In April, he would have been elected again with ease because his political enemies would have found themselves unable to chart and carry out a fully-fledged political campaign. Election in August on the other hand may foment a problem. Karzai’s term of office expires on May 31 when he is supposed to step down and hand the reigns over to some acting head of state pending election of the next president. It is this part that the still non-existent prime minister may be required to play. According to The Guardian, Interior Minister Mohammed Hanif Atmar is regarded as the prime candidate for the job.

Karzai in the meantime refuses to give up without a fight. He delivered a scathingly anti-American speech before the parliament on the day of Obama’s inauguration to which incidentally he never got an invitation. Departing for the international security conference in Munich, Karzai said NATO contingents were worse than the Talibs. The intention to run for another term of office already proclaimed, Karzai is clearly trying on the image of an anti-American candidate. “Afghanistan will never be a puppet-state,” he said in one of his latest interviews.

American experts suspect that Karzai may almost certainly try to secure Russia’s support in his struggle with Washington. The government of Afghanistan made a point to ask Moscow for military aid this January. It proclaimed Russia willing to help on the day of Obama’s inauguration. In the meantime, official Kabul cannot expect to be able to buy any merchandise from Russia. First, it is under commitments to the United States and NATO. Second, Afghanistan lacks money to buy weapons abroad because control over all finances raised in the West is in Washington’s hands.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Kabul last week and said that Russia was against any foreign meddling with election of president in this country. Commemorating the 90th anniversary of the Russian-Afghani diplomatic relations, Karzai said he had always loved the works of Pushkin, Dostoevsky, and Solzhenitsyn.

International conference on Afghanistan scheduled to take place in Moscow under the aegis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on March 27 will become an apogee of the Russian-Afghani rapprochement. This forum will precede an analogous NATO conference in the Hague by four days only. The conference in Moscow meanwhile will be attended by representatives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization members and observers, Atmar, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and Patrick Moon of the US Department of State. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer already said that he was going to miss the conference in Moscow because he needed time to prepare for the one in the Hague.