NEW YORK - US President Barack Obama will get tough with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in a bid to focus on the US combat mission in the war-torn country than on development, according to a media report. In a break with the Bush administration, Obama views Karzai's government as corrupt and believes its failures are contributing to a resurgence of Afghanistan's drug trade and the comeback of the Taliban insurgency, unnamed senior administration officials told Wednesday's New York Times. The change in attitude towards Karzai is being spurred by Vice-President Joe Biden and Richard Holbrooke, Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the newspaper said. A bid to demand more from Karzai would be a major break from Bush, who held videoconferences with the Afghan president every two weeks and emphasized rebuilding Afghanistan's civil institutions. Under the new strategy, the US would leave "nation building" activities to European allies while US forces would work with provincial leaders instead of the weak central government, allowing troops to focus solely on the fight against the Taliban, the Times said. Administration officials said that the Obama administration would work with provincial leaders as an alternative to the central government, and that it would leave economic development and nation-building increasingly to European allies, so that American forces could focus on the fight against insurgents. "If we set ourselves the objective of creating some sort of Central Asian Valhalla over there, we will lose," Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who served under Bush and is staying on under Obama, told Congress on Tuesday. He said there was not enough "time, patience or money" to pursue overly ambitious goals in Afghanistan, and he called the war there "our greatest military challenge." Gates said last week that previous American goals for Afghanistan had been "too broad and too far into the future," language that differed from Bush's policies, it was pointed out. NATO has not met its pledges for combat troops, transport helicopters, military trainers and other support personnel in Afghanistan, and Gates has openly criticised the US' Nato allies for not fulfilling their promises, the report said. Holbrooke is preparing to travel to the region, and administration officials said he would ask more of Karzai, particularly on fighting corruption, aides said, as part of what they described as a "more for more" approach, The Times said. Karzai is facing re-election this year, but The Times said it is not clear whether Obama and his aides intend to support his candidacy. The administration will be watching, aides said, to see if Karzai responds to demands from the US and its Nato allies that he arrest associates, including his half-brother, whom Western officials have accused of smuggling drugs in Kandahar. Shortly before taking office as vice president last week, Biden travelled to Afghanistan in his role as the departing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He met with Karzai and warned him that the Obama administration would expect more of him than Bush did, administration officials said. He told Karzai that Obama would be discontinuing the video calls that Karzai enjoyed with Bush, said a senior official, who added that Obama expected Karzai to do more to crack down on corruption. After his return from Afghanistan, Biden, who has had a contentious relationship with Karzai, described the situation there as "a real mess." An election is scheduled to be held no later than the fall, under Afghanistan's Constitution. Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-American who is a former US ambassador to the UN and is viewed as a possible challenger to Karzai, warned that the Obama Administration must tread carefully as it recalibrated its Afghanistan policy. "If it looks like we're abandoning the central government and focusing just on the local areas, we will run afoul of Afghan politics," Khalilzad said. "Some will regard it as an effort to break up the Afghan state, which would be regarded as hostile policy." Obama is preparing to increase the number of American troops in Afghanistan over the next two years, perhaps to more than 60,000 from about 34,000 now. But Gates indicated Tuesday that the administration would move slowly, at least for now. He outlined plans for an increase of about 12,000 troops by midsummer but cautioned that any decision on more troops beyond that might have to wait until late 2009, given the need for barracks and other infrastructure. With the forces of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda mounting more aggressive operations in eastern and southern Afghanistan, administration officials said they saw little option but to focus on the military campaign. They said Europeans would be asked to pick up more of the work on reconstruction, police training and cooperation with the Afghan government. They also said much of the international effort might shift to helping local governments and institutions, and away from the government in Kabul.