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Hamid Karzai worked to overthrow the Taliban before becoming president of Afghanistan in 2004. As president he faced enormous political and economic challenges.
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To his credit and with varying degrees of success, Karzai has been able to negotiate alliances with some of them and purge many former warlords from the administration's cabinet. Since the 2004 election, the Afghan economy has grown rapidly. Government revenue has increased every year, though the nation is still heavily dependent on foreign aid.
After the U.S. government diverted its military resources from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2003,
a resurgent Taliban emerged. Karzai pleaded with U.S. officials to increase resources and not endanger the civilian population in their pursuit of Taliban fighters. But reaction has been slow or incomplete with most Americans and much of the world engrossed in other matters. In what seemed an act of desperation, Karzai offered official pardons to all militants who would lay down their weapons and join in the nation's rebuilding. He has made clear his distinction between Taliban members who are welcome in the process and foreign fighters who are not. Karzai has been criticized for the slow progress of his nation. The Afghan government is said to be so riddled with corruption that for many Afghan people, the Taliban offer a better alternative.
On August 20, 2009, the second Afghan presidential election was held. Flawed by a lack of security, low voter turnout, and alleged widespread ballot stuffing, Hamid Karzai received just a little over 50 percent of the vote. A UN commission monitoring the election determined that many of the votes for Karzai were fraudulent, reducing his numbers and forcing a run-off election with his chief rival, Foreign Minister Abdulla Abdulla. The run-off election was scheduled for November 7, 2009, but in a not-so-surprising move Abdulla Abdulla announced his withdrawal from the run-off election citing continued corruption and fraud in the voting process. Subsequently, Karzai was declared the winner.
On December 1, 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a military surge of 30,000 additional U.S. troops be sent to Afghanistan to constrict the influence of the Taliban insurgency and debilitate al Qaeda's influence in the region. In his announcement, the president put pressure on Hamid Karzai to clean up the corruption in his government and help build a more affective Afghan army and police force that can play a greater role in protecting and building their nation.
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