by RAY FLEMING
SINCE President Obama has committed himself to bringing the Afghanistan problem to a satisfactory end there is one key task he needs to deal with quickly. In September or October, when the snows have melted, presidential elections are due to be held in which the only candidate seems likely to be the incumbent president, Hamid Karsai. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that an alternative candidate is essential. Although Karsai has upheld the dignity of his office by wearing superbly cut traditional Afghan clothes he has been less attentive to the issues that really matter, such as the drugs trade, and has frequently been accused by the Americans of turning a blind eye to corruption in which his brother is allegedly involved. This week Mr Karsai gave everyone an insight into the light touch he applies to his responsibilities. Apologising at a press conference for signing into law the new Shia Family Law which makes unacceptable demands on women, he said that he had not read the law's provisions before putting his name to it, and blamed his aides for not briefing him properly. The law says that a married woman should “preen for her husband when he desires”, that he has the right to sexual intercourse with her every fourth night, and that she cannot leave the house without her husband's permission. Afghanistan is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- but perhaps Mr Karsai has not read that either.