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And, yes, I DO take it personally: Afghanistan - "a free-for-all of corruption"... A follow-on to the previous "Talking to the Taliban" post
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Friday, March 27, 2009

Afghanistan - "a free-for-all of corruption"... A follow-on to the previous "Talking to the Taliban" post


another perspective that supports what i witness first-hand every day here in kabul, this time from a woman with in-depth experience in afghanistan who runs a co-op in kandahar...

from the la times...

What ensued has been a free-for-all of corruption and abuse of power, with ordinary citizens paying the price. Our cooperative, for example, recently imported some solar energy equipment, which we needed because of the ongoing lack of electricity in Kandahar. We had to pay about $1,200 in bribes at seven different checkpoints on the road from the Pakistani border and at the Kandahar customs house. Judicial decisions are bought and sold, as is public office. Driver's licenses, death certificates and electricity meters come with a heavy surcharge. Lucrative contracts are monopolized by power brokers. The corruption infuriates ordinary Afghans, who do not see such abuses as part of their culture.

The result has been that a country that in 2002 enthusiastically welcomed the young government of Karzai and the international presence is now turning back to the Taliban. This is not out of affinity or ideological bent but because -- as was the case in 1994, when the Taliban first arrived on the scene -- it represents a practical alternative to the reigning chaos.

with the impending release of the obama administration's afghanistan policy (see below), a policy i fear will be sadly deficient and seriously misaligned, it's good to see some of what i consider to be reasonably accurate and informed perspectives creeping into the mainstream media...
Shifting U.S. objectives in Afghanistan away from the Bush administration's promise to build a Western-style democracy, President Barack Obama will announce on Friday that he's deploying thousands of additional American troops and civilians to achieve more modest goals, such as enhancing security and promoting economic development, U.S. officials said.

for the la times writer, quoted above, if indeed this shift comes to pass, it does not bode well... she does, however, have some constructive ideas to propose...
The answer is not to lower the bar but to raise it. What is needed is some of that patented Obama "Yes, we can!" energy.

We can, for example, work to ensure not just the security of the upcoming Afghan elections but a modicum of integrity, by observing, reporting and sanctioning instances of abuse and by distancing ourselves from those Afghan officials illegally exploiting their offices to ensure a Karzai reelection. We can insist on accountability on the part of Afghan officials, especially regarding the expenditure of international funds. We can help Afghans give teeth to what is perhaps the most important feature of American democracy -- one that was signally ignored by the Bush administration's Afghan design: checks-and-balances mechanisms.

Additional troops are desperately needed, and they should be deployed to protect the population rather than focused on hunting high-value targets or trying to seal off Afghanistan's borders. Development assistance, well targeted and monitored, is also crucial. But only with a concurrent full-court press on governance can the most limited U.S. goals in the region be accomplished.

i am very cool on the idea of additional troops, not because they shouldn't be utilized in the way the writer suggests, but because the u.s. is far from re-making its military might into a force of protection and peacekeeping rather than an instrument of death and destruction... if obama is to pull off THAT transition, he's going to need to do some major housecleaning at the pentagon in order to disembowel the "kick ass and take names" mindset that's been the history of the u.s. military, a history that was seriously reinforced through the bush/rumsfeld/gates era and continues to this day...

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