by RAY FLEMING
THERE is a general, if reluctant, assumption that Hamid Karsai will win today's election in Afghanistan. In the United States and Britain and the other Nato countries present in Afghanistan there is a belief that Karsai has achieved very little reform in his first five years in office and will do as little as possible in his second term.

A leading article in The Times yesterday argued that if public opinion is to remain broadly supportive of the international operation in Afghanistan it will be necessary, following the election, for President Obama and Prime Minister Brown to spell out in the clearest terms the purpose of their two nations' presence there. It is dreadful that after eight years it is necessary to do this, but it is. In fact, more is needed. In my Looking Around article in this paper on Tuesday I said that one of the first tasks after Karsai's re-election should be to set in motion with him a tripartite statement on mutually agreed objectives. There is no point in the US and the UK achieving clarity if Karsai continues to undermine their objectives as he has already done in a number of ways. If Karsai does not want to be part of such a statement in whole or in part then at least that can be noted and action taken accordingly. I repeat my final words on Tuesday: “Clarity is needed to ensure that the men and women fighting in Afghanistan, the population at home - and the Afghan people - know what the agreed objectives are.”

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