The U.S. and its European allies are preparing to plant a high-profile figurein the heart of the Kabul government in a direct challenge to the AfghanPresident, Hamid Karzai. The creation of a new chief executive or Prime Ministerial role is aimedat bypassing Mr. Karzai. In a further dilution of his power, it is proposedthat money be diverted from the Kabul government to the provinces. Many U.S.and European officials have become disillusioned with the extent of thecorruption and incompetence in the Mr. Karzai government, but most now believethere are no credible alternatives, and predict the Afghan president willwin re-election in August. A revised role for Mr. Karzai has emerged from the White House review ofAfghanistan and Pakistan ordered by Barack Obama when he became president.It is to be unveiled at a special conference on Afghanistan at The Hague on31 March. As well as watering down Mr. Karzai's personal authority by installing asenior official at the president's side capable of playing a more efficientexecutive role, the U.S. and Europeans are seeking to channel resources tothe provinces rather than to central government in Kabul. A diplomat with knowledge of the review said: "Mr. Karzai is not delivering.If we are going to support his government, it has to be run properly toensure the levels of corruption decrease, not increase. The levels ofcorruption are frightening." Another diplomat said alternatives to Mr. Karzai had been explored anddiscarded: "No one could be sure that someone else would not turn out to be10 times worse. It is not a great position." The idea of a more dependable figure working alongside Mr. Karzai is one of theproposals to emerge from the White House review, completed last week.Obama, locked away at the presidential retreat Camp David, was due to makea final decision this weekend. He is expected to focus in public on overall strategy rather than thedetails, and, given its sensitivity, to skate over Mr. Karzai's new role. Themain recommendation is for the Afghanistan objectives to be scaled back,and for Obama to sell the war to the U.S. public as one to ensure the countrycannot again be a base for al-Qaeda and the Taliban, rather than the moreambitious aim of the Bush administration of trying to create aEuropean-style democracy in Central Asia. Other recommendations include: increasing the number of Afghan troopsfrom 65,000 to 2,30,000 as well as expanding the 80,000-strong police force;sending more U.S. and European civilians to build up Afghanistan'sinfrastructure; and increased aid to Pakistan as part of a policy of tryingto persuade it to tackle al-Qaeda and Taliban elements. The proposal for an alternative chief executive, which originated withthe U.S., is backed by Europeans. "There needs to be a deconcentration ofpower," said one senior European official. "We need someone next to Mr. Karzai,a sort of chief executive, who can get things done, who will be reliablefor us and accountable to the Afghan people." Money and power will flow less to the ministries in Kabul and far more tothe officials who run Afghanistan outside the capital - the 34 ProvincialGovernors and 396 District Governors. "The point on which we insist is thatthe time is now for a new division of responsibilities, between centralpower and local power," the senior European official said. No names have emerged for the new role but the U.S. holds in high regardthe reformist Interior Minister appointed in October, Mohammed Hanif Atmar. The risk for the U.S. is that the imposition of a technocrat alongsideMr. Karzai would be viewed as colonialism, even though that figure would be anAfghan. Mr. Karzai declared his intention last week to resist a dilution of hispower. Last week he accused an unnamed foreign government of trying toweaken central government in Kabul. "That is not their job," the Afghan President said. "Afghanistan willnever be a puppet state." The U.K. government has since 2007 advocated dropping plans to turnAfghanistan into a model, European-style state. Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, who willimplement the new policy, said it would represent a "vastly restructuredeffort". At the weekend in Brussels, he was scathing about the Bushadministration's conduct of the counter-insurgency. "The failures in thecivilian side ... are so enormous we can at least hope that if we get ouract together ... we can do a lot better," he said.