Of late, insecurity induced by the Taliban tempest appears to have been supplanted in the media by the crisis created by the impending elections. As per Article 61 of the new constitution, the term of the incumbent, Hamid Karzai, ends on May 21 this year. By the same law, the next presidential elections should be held 30/60 days prior to February 22 so that the new leader can take charge of the mess in his country. Recently the Independent Election Commission of the country decided that the presidential elections shall be held on August 20. The gap between the 2 dates appears to be causing concerns among the interested parties. Such a development makes the prevailing confusion worse confounded for the new administration in the US which has inherited the jumble from the out-going leadership. Apparently this could not have been foreseen by President Obama or his special envoy for the region, Richard Holbrooke. If the departing administration had not ended up the way it did as a complete failure, it could have managed to protect US interests by deliberating on the issue to find a satisfactory arrangement acceptable, generally, to all the parties. Karzai, who has been feeling, generally, sidelined with the change in Washington DC, started playing politics persistently since the Taliban got aggressive last year. One can appreciate his natural outrage at the killing of women and children in indiscriminate aerial attacks by the foreign forces. Moreover being an Afghan he must be worried about the likely consequences of a fall if and when he is ditched by his gurus. Apparently he has been going out of his way to seek an accommodation with the 'insurgents' once he got an indication from Washington of a wishful paradigm-shift in Kabul. He got particularly effusive when George W Bush requested King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at a late stage last year to use his good offices to persuade the Taliban to change course for a negotiated settlement. Karzai offered a sop to Mullah Omar, the Taliban chief in his country, by offering full 'security' if the latter got in touch with him. Moreover, he offered even to tolerate being sacked from his job by the powers-that-be if he could heal the wounds caused by the on-going cruel war. His desperation towards the last days of the Republican administration was writ large in most of his pronouncements which would have demoralised those on his bandwagon. On February 28, Karzai invoked the constitutional provision to announce that the elections should be held in April. He claimed to have consulted his local partners in power etc. Claiming that such a move was in the interest of stability of sorts that currently prevails, he advocated adherence to his projected schedule. He even went on to criticise the dispatch of 17000 US troops to his country which would reach Afghanistan around mid-year 2009. Karzai may be right in terms of constitutional requirements. However, in such situations, what matters most is the entity which pays the piper. Accordingly Karzai' wailing has, so far, remains a cry in the wilderness. Objectively speaking, holding elections in April would be highly problematic. Mr Le Roy, the Head of the UN' Peacekeeping Operations in Kabul, emphatically says: "We consider it...almost impossible to get credible elections in April." Not to be caught on the wrong foot, Roy acknowledged that the debate about the date was well founded as healthy constitutional practices are in everybody's interest. Advocating a consensus on the issue, he laid great stress on the correctness of the Aug-date for the presidential polls. He is also backed by the International Monitors who uphold the Aug-date due to security worries, harsh weather and logistical hazards associated with the conduct of the elections. Since the US is seen here as having asked for the Aug-date, it is naturally viewed as having timed the dispatch of additional troops accordingly which is expected to bolster security against the Taliban attacks. IEC Chief, Azizullah Ludin, told a press conference in Kabul in January 2009: "They told us there will be new security forces here...and they will guarantee security." The opposition in Kabul has also joined the fray. It has accused Karzai of 'sabotaging' the forthcoming elections. Denouncing the stand taken by Karzai, The National Front spokesman, Sayid Fazel Sancharaki said: "Trying to save his own political career, Karzai is dragging the country into an emergency situation." He went on to blame the incumbent for wanting to avoid holding the prospective elections so that Karzai could stick to power by hook or by crook. Likewise presidential aspirant, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, told Reuters on late night of February 28: "All candidates and influential figures have been trying to get ready for the campaign in the month of August, but a sudden change to the decision and holding the elections in the month of April will create certain problems." The controversy cited above has already done a great damage to the status quo. No wonder it has further undermined Karzai' uneasy position. As Afghans, generally, hate dictation, the in-fighting among the forces supporting the regime would demoralise its supporters besides aggravating the resentment against the current realities. Conversely it will jack up the position of the Taliban who openly project Karzai-regime as an Afghan facade for 'occupation' of their country. Accordingly a rise in attacks on the government forces etc should be a likely consequence. Moreover, as aerial attacks on 'suspects' continue unabated with embarrassing co-lateral damage, the aggrieved families, generally, tend to treat the Taliban as their last hope for revenge against the 'enemy'. In addition, the lack of security and terrible unemployment dog the people blatantly against which there appears to be little redress. This is caused by widespread corruption, Afghan as well as foreigner-related, as per many agencies, which is underwritten by miserable governance and warlord-ism. Even in the recent Munich Conference on Security, Karzai hinted at this fact. The Afghan are afflicted, generally, by a very grim situation. In their war-torn country, there are two alternatives to support. One is the US-prompted regime with doubtful credentials; the other is the Taliban extremists, once out of favour but made a sheet-anchor of support, generally, for the Pashtun population by the faux pas of governance and the perverse image projected by the presence of 'foreign troops'. No wonder, the Taliban are roaring discreetly. Obama has to cross the Rubicon to ensure that he belies Newsweek' prognosis that Afghanistan will be his Vietnam. The writer is a former ambassador