In Afghanistan, Abandonment Fears Complicate Mission

Relations between the administrations of President Obama and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai have been strained for much of 2010, but on Wednesday the two leaders made nice, holding a press conference in which they projected mutual respect and cooperation.

The reality, however, is that sticking points remain between the two men - and it will take more than a stateside visit and photo-op to adequately address them.

On Thursday's Washington Unplugged, Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, spoke with CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Bill Plante about the realities both sides are facing.

According to Khalilzad, relations "will ultimately depend on whether progress is made on the ground" in the war in Afghanistan.

"If progress is not made the contentiousness will return in my judgment," he said.

The Afghan government may hold power in the capital of Kabul, but there is a breakdown in rule away from the power center, creating fertile ground for the Taliban.

"The problem has been the effectiveness of government institutions in terms of dealing with challenges such as corruption, with rule of law, with terrorist and insurgents," Khalilzad said.

Corruption is one of the biggest reasons behind the American unease with Karzai and the current Afghan government. Fear within the Afghan government over the American plans once the country eventually withdraw troops is also an issue.

"Because people are now concerned that the U.S. is going to leave, corruption has increased," said Khalilzad. "People want to get it while they can, so to speak, and that is an unintended consequence."

One significant question is whether Afghan forces will be effective in enforcing the rule of law if and when the U.S. military does leave."Can enough progress be made both in terms of security for the Afghans and the weakening of the insurgency? I think the jury's out on that," Khalilzad said.

President Obama hoped to alleviate Karzai's fears during their meeting and news conference, pledging to remain committed to Afghanistan even after troop withdrawal begins. Pledges and promises will be useless without viable security and support for Afghanistan's government and military, however.

"If you draw down security militarily," according to Khalilzad, "you may have the best of intentions, it may not be economically and politically credible under those circumstances."

Plante asked Khalilzad about his personal confidence that all of these factors can be worked out. "I'm concerned whether there's enough time to make these things happen," he said. "That's the challenge for President Obama and President Karzai."

Watch Thursday's Washington Unplugged above, which also features John Dickerson's "Damned Spot" on Pennsylvania's love lost for Senator Arlen Specter.

"Washington Unplugged," CBSNews.com's exclusive daily politics Webshow, appears live on CBSNews.com each weekday at 12:30 p.m. ET. Click here to check out previous episodes.

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