AFGHAN President Hamid Karzai recently had an acrimonious luncheon-meeting with US presidential envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, over the Afghan presidential elections, about which Holbrooke expressed doubts. Mr Holbrooke had also met the other candidates in the August 20 election before this meeting, which took place the day after the polling in what might prove a two-round election, with a runoff between the two top contenders if no one gets more than 50 percent in the first round. The meeting with President Karzai turned tense when Mr Holbrooke raised the prospect of that runoff. This indicates that the Obama Administration has already formed the view that there were irregularities in the election, and it wishes to use this as a lever over Mr Karzai. Mr Holbrooke came out of the meeting with the understanding that 'the thrust of the meeting was to respect the electoral process, let it take its course', as an American official put it. That means the USA looks to working with Mr Karzai in a second term, but also wishes to use the election issue, along with corruption and his links with various warlords, to keep up the pressure on him. This can only mean that the USA wishes to use Afghanistan to prop up the position of India, which it has chosen as China's rival in the region, and which is destined to contain it. Apart from the exertion of pressure, the US admission shows that Afghanistan has not held a fair election, as has been claimed by President Karzai's opponents, and that its efforts against the Taliban, and its attempt to turn that country into a democracy, have not been very successful, even though it has been eight years since the Taliban were overthrown, and the USA has been occupying the country. After this episode, those working for American interests everywhere, Pakistan included, should watch very carefully what happens to President Karzai. The Americans have suffered their worst two monthly losses in Afghanistan this July and August because of misguided policies, but are trying to pass the blame onto their local stooge, whom they seem willing to jettison now. The election's unfairness is only now occupying US official attention because President Karzai is seen as expendable.