John Kerry delivers in Afghanistan

JOHN KERRY DELIVERS IN AFGHANISTAN…. It’s nice to John Kerry get some well-deserved credit.

Sen. John Kerry’s successful mission to Kabul — in which he convinced Afghan President Hamid Karzai to hold a second-round runoff to August’s fraud-soaked election — suggests that the Obama administration is putting the squeeze on Karzai to clean up his act as a precondition to getting more U.S. troops to help fight his war.

The squeeze was subtler — or, at least quieter — than the yelling sessions that AfPak envoy Richard Holbrooke and Vice President Joe Biden — both famously voluble characters — have held with Karzai in recent months.

Yet a chronology of Kerry’s “shuttle diplomacy” pieced together by ABC News shows the Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Senate foreign-relations committee meeting with Karzai six times, some sessions for hours at a stretch, during a five-day trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan Oct. 16-20 — each visit at the behest of, and in consultation with, Holbrooke and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

U.S. officials agreed that a runoff was necessary to maintain at least some confidence among the Afghan population in the legitimacy of its government. Karzai didn’t much care, and was poised to ignore the report of international investigators who documented election irregularities.

Given recent incidents in which Holbrooke and Biden expressed their disdain for Karzai’s conduct, it fell to Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to convince the Afghan president. It wasn’t easy, but the senator’s efforts paid off, and the Obama administration got the results it wanted.

Marc Ambinder asked, “Has Sen. John Kerry ever had as good a press cycle?”

Indeed, most of the stories devoted to Kerry have the exact same analysis: Kerry was reluctantly thrust into the role of negotiator. Kerry developed Karzai’s trust. Kerry had the diplomatic skills that current ambassador Karl Eikenberry lacked. Kerry’s importuning proved to be the turning point. Oh, and it compares favorably to Kerry’s brokering of a dialog between the U.S. and Syria earlier in the year.

The Boston Globe called it a “triumph” for Kerry — his biggest accomplishment since the presidential race. The Wall Street Journal, along with many other publications, noted that Kerry used his own experience in 2004 to establish a better bond with Karzai.

And in case there are any doubts, these developments do not point to tensions between Kerry and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Just the opposite — David Rogers reported that the two worked together on this: “Clinton, as secretary of state, helped clear the way with a long call to Karzai but also gave Kerry the room to run. And the result — Karzai’s agreement to hold a runoff election next month — was a joint triumph for the onetime rivals.”

Have I mentioned lately how nice it is to have grown-ups in positions of governmental authority again?