Fragile Leadership A Hurdle For Pakistan

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari attends the Pakistan donors conference at a Tokyo hotel, Japan, April 17, 2009.(AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye
AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye
Residents are packing up and fleeing the Swat Valley, the government preparing to shelter up to half a million people.

It's a sure sign the situation is getting worse - not better, reports CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan.

It may also mean the Pakistani army is finally doing what the U.S. wants - taking on the Taliban and al Qaeda militants who now control that area.

That issue is sure to be top of the agenda Wednesday when three presidents meet.

Barack Obama's greatest foreign policy challenge so far is in the hands of two men: Pakistan's Asif Ali Zardari and Afghanistan's Hameed Karzai.

"Can the men deliver, and deliver adequately, it is far from clear," says Simon Henderson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The U.S. needs Zardari to reign in the militants and guarantee his nation's nuclear weapons are safe from terrorist hands.

But the U.S. is dealing with a weak president in a country more accustomed to military dictatorships.

"In general, he's not very popular," says Fouzia Saeed, a social activist in Pakistan.

Like many Pakistanis, Saeed supports the president's party - but not the man himself.

"One thing that we do not want is for any powerful country, especially the United States, to undermine our democracy," Saeed says.

Pakistanis do feel undermined by recent public statements from the U.S.

"The civilian government there right now is very fragile," Mr. Obama said.

That may be true, but saying it hasn't made President Zardari any stronger as he faces critics in Washington - and at home.

In the poorest neighborhoods of the capital Islamabad, people feel abandoned by the government. Even though many of them voted for President Zardari and his party, they say he's done nothing for them.

Across the border in Afghanistan, many feel the same way about President Karzai.

"He has turned into somebody which has shown the ultimate sense of irresponsibility to the needs and the feelings of the people," says former Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullah Abdullah.

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Today in Washington, Karzai (at left with House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) asserted his independence from his U.S. backers, mindful of his audience at home.

"Money can't buy you love, as you say it in America," Karzai said. "And force won't buy you obedience, no matter how much it is."

President Obama's challenge: how to get results without alienating two key U.S. allies.