U.S. Backs Karzai Win - With Reservations

President Barack Obama talks with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan during a phone call from the Oval Office, Nov. 2, 2009. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
White House photo by Pete Souza
In Afghanistan, two months of political turmoil ground to a messy halt today. The country's election commission declared President Hamid Karzai re-elected - a winner by default, after his runoff opponent dropped out.

President Obama quickly endorsed the decision - but with serious reservations, as CBS News correspondent David Martin reports.

President Obama's phone call to Hamid Karzai was unavoidable. Like him or not, he is the partner the U.S. will have to deal with.

Special Report: Afghanistan

"I emphasized that this has to be a point in time to which we write a new chapter based on improved governance," Mr. Obama told reporters following the phone call.

In other words: root out corruption and serve the people.

"He assured me that he understood the importance of this moment, but as I indicated to him the proof is not going to be in words," Mr. Obama said. "It's going to be in deeds."

U.S. soldiers are fighting and dying to support a government that has yet to prove worthy of the name.

So, if Karzai governs the next five years essentially as he has governed the last five years will the outcome be?

"I think the outcome is likely failure," said Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations. He said. That the first sign of how Karzai intends to govern will be the people he brings in.

"If what we're seeing are former war lords, power brokers in key provinces that he wants or needs politically that would be a very worrisome sign," Biddle said.

Still faced with the decision whether to send tens of thousands more troops to Afghanistan, President Obama is probably asking himself the same question CBS News correspondent Mandy Clark put to Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai's lone remaining challenger who pulled out of the race over the weekend: Does Obama have a viable partner?

"I think I will leave it with the United States to judge because the United States has experience dealing with the same partner for the past few years," Abdullah said. "It is what it is."

If it doesn't change officials say, the Afghan people will cast the vote that really counts and side with the Taliban.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.