A battle royal is exactly what Richard Holbrookes detractors feared when he was appointed special envoy to the poisoned chalice of Afpak. Not for nothing did he earn the sobriquet of the Bulldozer while knocking Balkan heads together to bring an end to the Bosnian war. Impatience will not solve this problem, Ahmad Rashid, the veteran Pakistani journalist, warned, and Holbrooke is an impatient guy. Hamid Karzai is a touchy one. All is sunny when you agree with him but he can quickly fly off the handle. He was charm itself when I first met him in the days after September 11, 2001; by the time we were reacquainted in Kabul in 2002 he was tiring of his Western overlords and jumped down my throat halfway through a question about the wisdom of cosying up to murderous warlords. At a press conference the day after his first election in 2005, he was livid at journalists questions about the ink scandal, all but walking out of the room at our failure to join in the victory parade. A leader in The Times lampooning him as a lonely Pashtun in a Tajik-dominated government is said to have propelled him into such a rage that he spiked Paddy Ashdowns candidacy for UN envoy in revenge. Karzais fury will go down well in Afghanistan, where he has struggled to cast off the label of Western stooge. It will not help his relations with Washington. The two have enjoyedhad a testy relationship from the start, not helped by Holbrookes outspoken criticism of Karzai as corrupt and feckless, even before he had been confirmed to the job. Such criticism did nothing to prevent Mr Karzai from selecting the drug-trafficking warlord Mohammed Qasim Fahim as his running-mate in these elections. Perhaps the only surprising thing about this bust-up is that it took this long. Even the Bulldozer should have known better than to lose his rag with a foreign head of state. Karzai will not back down and Holbrooke cannot afford to. Where does he go from here?(The Times)