With his fancy hats and fluent English, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan cuts a dashing figure on the international stage. But, while Mr Karzai is a regular at Davos, he keeps a low profile in Afghanistan itself. Holed up in his presidential palace in Kabul, he seemed tired and evasive at a press conference there last week.
Mr Karzai’s erratic behaviour is just one reason for fearing for the future of Afghanistan. The Taliban insurgency is still raging across the country. Suicide attacks are occurring at eight times the rate they were in 2006. Diplomats in Kabul are told not to visit restaurants or markets. Last week an International Monetary Fund report portrayed the Afghan economy as based on opium and aid.
Open bickering has broken out within the international coalition that is trying to shore up Afghanistan. The Canadians, who hold the vital region around Kandahar, are threatening to withdraw their 2,500 troops unless allies send reinforcements. Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, has criticised the counterinsurgency efforts of Nato allies.
The remainder of this column can be read here. Please post comments below.