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Abdullah Out

I'm not sure how to assess Abdullah Abdullah's exit from the Afghan runoff election, which renders Hamid Karzai the unchallenged Afghan president. A runoff election certainly did promise to be tainted by the same fraud we saw last time around--quite likely more, in fact, given how fast they were slapping the plans together.

But it's a problem that Abdullah is not exiting on a conciliatory note. Today's Washington Post has this:

A senior Obama administration official said Sunday that Abdullah's tone was "constructive" and "moderate."

But I just heard Abdullah on NPR and he was trashing Karzai, saying that the president bore the blame for the chaos of the past eight years.

So, Obama may be forced to carry on with an illegitimate partner in Kabul. That is a fundamental taboo of counterinsurgency doctrine. But that illegitimacy doesn't have to be permanent. If Karzai can make some quick and visible shows of reform, the situation could be salvageable. It's also worth recalling that the Maliki government in Iraq wasn't particularly legitimate when the surge began, either. There may be hope yet.