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And, yes, I DO take it personally: The U.S. and the Karzai government have made such a mess in Afghanistan that the Taliban looks attractive by comparison
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The U.S. and the Karzai government have made such a mess in Afghanistan that the Taliban looks attractive by comparison


no small part of the reason why the situation in afghanistan is headed south...
Ramzan Bashardost drives a beat-up black 1991 Suzuki with a cracked windshield and often sleeps in a tent—habits hardly befitting a respected member of parliament.

His relatives think he is crazy. But Bashardost, 46, now running for president, said he is making a point against persistent corruption in the Afghan government. He said he has turned down free land and fancy vehicles offered to officials. He even rejected a free couch.

"In the Afghan administration now, money is the law," said Bashardost, the former planning minister. "When you have money here, you can do anything. Afghanistan is the only country in the world where corruption is legal."

Not exactly legal, but definitely rampant. Increasingly, corruption is driving a wedge between the government and the Afghan people, who are growing more and more resentful of their leaders, experts say. And that poses an enormous challenge for President Hamid Karzai and the U.S.- and NATO-led forces intensifying their efforts to defeat a Taliban-led insurgency.

Corruption is turning more people toward the fundamentalist Taliban, which is seen as clean in comparison.

The Taliban may be remembered for its harsh rule, but it also is remembered for enforcing that harsh rule. No one took bribes. Most of the country was secure. Taming corruption is seen as crucial to the nation's future, but despite Karzai's pledge to fight it, little has changed in recent years.

i can vouch for the authenticity of the information in this chicago tribune article... my good friend, abid, needed to get a meter to start electric service in his new house... the municipal power authority would sell him one for $60, only it would take him two weeks and about 70 signatures on the form to get it, and each of those 70 stops would require another palm to be greased... not only couldn't he get the time off of work to run that gauntlet, he figured it would turn out to be more expensive than paying one of the power authority's employees $600 to run the gauntlet for him... now, he tells me the meter burned out last night and he has to fork over approximately $300 to get another one... lovely, eh...? oh, btw, did i mention that all this is for the roughly one hour per week of electricity he gets in the wintertime...? the rest of the time, he has to depend on a small honda generator that can power his water pump, OR his lights, OR his washer, but only one at a time...

if you figure in all the other routine little things necessary to live anywhere - water service, drivers license, car registration, marriage license, birth certificate, etc., etc., etc. - you get some idea of just what life is like for the average resident of kabul...

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