Afghanistan: The Nature of the Problem-Part 1

Only a few weeks ago President Obama outlined his Afghan strategy after weeks of deliberation.  The new strategy calls for an escalation of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan by adding 30,000 troops to the war effort (around 100,000 total).  These troops will be sent immediately and begin implementing a similar “surge” strategy that was (arguably) successful in Iraq. This strategy has been opposed by some and for further comments look here and here.

As more American troops are sent to the region there are four major areas of concern: 1)corruption, 2)the drug trade, 3) an effective U.S. economic and political aid program, and 4) understanding the link between the Taliban and Al-Qaida.  There is no doubt that when the U.S. military seeks to clear an area they will do so with relative ease.  However, as in Iraq, a military success does not lead to political reconciliation. Given that the military surge will be a success, there are four areas of focus that must be part of our strategy.

1.) Corruption:  The recent Afghan election was plagued by fraud. This recent corruption underlines a much more broad and difficult corruption present at virtually every level of the Karzai government.  Even Karzai’s own brother is reportedly deeply involved the drug trade (see below), and paid by the CIA.  According to Peter Galbraith, former Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United nations to Afghanistan: “For the Obama strategy to succeed, you need a credible, local partner,”…”You need a government that can provide public services, honest administration, and win the confidence of the people. That doesn’t exist.”

Furthermore, According to Amin Tarzi, director of Middle East Studies at the Marine Corps University, the issue of legitimacy of the Afghan government needs to be addressed to combat corruption. “The majority of Afghans… do not believe in the structure of their government, they do not believe that the system in place will last,” he said.

This point cannot be stressed enough.  Without a legitimate government in Kabul, the U.S. strategy cannot achieve its goals-whatever they may be.  There are some interesting approaches to fixing the corruption problem.  First, a broad study done by the U.N offers some history, statistics, and approaches to fixing some of the problems. I am concerned that the U.S. has put all of its eggs in one basket with Karzai.  While I am free to criticize this point, I understand that our options are limited.  Time will tell if Karzai will be able fight corruption and gain the trust of his people.

Finally, the US needs to be an guiding hand.  During the Bush Administration, failure after failure was disregarded as its own focus was on Iraq.  As troops start leaving Iraq and the focus shifts to Afghanistan, the United States need to be smart about how it offers support to this fragile country.  No doubt, the appointment of MR. Afpak, Richard Holbrooke, is a great first start.

Any thoughts on how the U.S. can combat corruption?

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9 thoughts on “Afghanistan: The Nature of the Problem-Part 1

  1. I thought this was going to be another long boring blog post, but I was pleasantly suprised. I will be posting a backlink on my blog, as I am quite sure my readers will find this more than interesting.

  2. Your kind words are much appreciated. I will be posting a series of blogs on Afghanistan, the next in a few days. I look forward to your comments.

  3. So I was taking a look at the UN’s critique on how to combat corruption and thought it was rather good, precisely the establishment of anti-corruption agencies and conducting audits and what not. However, there is one important thing to note. Deeply rooted in Afghan culture is the conflict of ethnicity/tribes and it is something that still prevails. If you have anti-corruption agencies, it can’t be guarenteed that they will not be biased (unless you have people who aren’t Afghan running the agency). Ethnic favoritism (e.g Pashtun’s favoring those that are Pashtun compared to detest for those of Oriental decent or vise versa) isn’t easy to extinguish. It still exists in Afghan communities/families within countries like the US/Canada then how can it be rid of in Afghanistan itself? It’s a baseline for corruption, but unfortunately it is not something that is easy to erase.

  4. Sana: Thanks for the comment 🙂 I hope to hear from you more often!

    To be sure, every country has a problem with corruption. I think the kind of favoritism you outline is correct, and all the more lethal given the drug trade. Furthermore, the Karzai government is extremely unpopular. Given both of these assumptions, I see no way American and coalition forces can achieve their goals. Time to come home? And if U.S. troops do leave Afghanistan, does that mean a resurgence of the Taliban? What do you think?

  5. It is time for the troops to come home. Will it mean a resurgence of the Taliban? Well that is an open-ended question that essentially depends on the Afghan government itself. Can Karzai defeat corruption as he claims and how strong are the Afghan forces? I’m very skeptical of Karzai and the entire Afghan government as a whole. Since Obama gave the month and year of when we plan to pull out, it makes me wonder if the Taliban are simply on the sidelines waiting until the US leaves in order to take action.

  6. Just need to say your article is striking. The clarity in your post is plainly outstanding and i can take for granted you are an expert on this subject. Well with your permission permit me to grab your rss feed to keep up to date with future posts. Thanks a meg and please keep up the good work. Apologise my poor English. English is not my mother tongue.

  7. Barack Obama’s book, “The Audacity of Hope,” provides a appealing title. It has a taste of bravery mixed with confidence. You’ll find nothing Pollyanna about it. I might not support every part he tells, but he’s our president, and then for me, he creates confidence. Which could do more for a region than any volume of backroom deals. Hope gives us energy, and energy sustains us through trying times. Boy, we’ve had them. I’m from West Texas, and I did not vote for Bush. When McCain ran against Obama, I used to be a citizen of Arizona, but I gave audacious hope a chance. The fight for progress and laying the foundations of prosperity isn’t over. I have seen the quips of those who don’t think Obama is able to do it. But step back a second. Would anyone have most of us fail in order to tarnish the star of an incumbent for whom they did not vote? Attempting to keep our priorities straight, let’s work together with this president and build our future.

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