Monday, November 2, 2009

Why Aren't We Questioning the Corrupt Karzai Government? These Children Deserve Better.

As we listen to these Afghan children we realize that they just want the same things we want. A green environment, a liberal society, an end to poverty, access to education; and above all peace. So why are we backing the corrupt Karzai government?

As Canadians, we do support our troops but shouldn't part of that support be about questioning our role? What are we accomplishing there? Are these children really being listened to?

With Karzai, U.S. Faces Weak Partner in Time of War
New York Times
November 1, 2009

WASHINGTON — With the White House’s reluctant embrace on Sunday of Hamid Karzai as the winner of Afghanistan’s suddenly moot presidential runoff, President Obama now faces a new complication: enabling a badly tarnished partner to regain enough legitimacy to help the United States find the way out of an eight-year-old war.

It will not be easy. As the evidence mounted in late summer that Mr. Karzai’s forces had sought to win re-election through widespread fraud to defeat his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, administration officials made no secret of their disgust. How do you consider sending tens of thousands of additional American troops, they asked in meetings in the White House, to prop up an Afghan government regarded as illegitimate by many of its own people?

The answer was supposed to be a runoff election. Now, administration officials argue that Mr. Karzai will have to regain that legitimacy by changing the way he governs, at a moment when he is politically weaker than at any time since 2001.

“We’re going to know in the next three to six months whether he’s doing anything differently — whether he can seriously address the corruption, whether he can raise an army that ultimately can take over from us and that doesn’t lose troops as fast as we train them,” one of Mr. Obama’s senior aides said. He insisted on anonymity because of the confidentiality surrounding the Obama administration’s own debate on a new strategy, and the request by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the American military commander in Afghanistan, for upward of 44,000 more troops.

“Needless to say,” the senior aide added, “this is not where we wanted to be after nine months.”

That is a huge understatement.

In the early days of Mr. Obama’s presidency, he and his aides searched desperately for a plausible alternative to Mr. Karzai. They found none. Since the spring, there has been little doubt that Mr. Karzai would remain in the presidential palace after the election was over. The question was whether that vote would demonstrate that a desolate nation that has always been at the mercy of larger powers would show it could find its own way.

Mr. Obama’s decision last March to add 21,000 troops was justified in part by the need to assure a relatively peaceful, fair election. The idea was to bolster Mr. Karzai’s credibility so that his authority would reach beyond Kabul, the capital.

Here in the United States, Mr. Obama began scaling back American ambitions. With the advice of his defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, he dropped the Bush-era talk of turning Afghanistan into a Western-style democracy. He carefully avoided the word “victory,” which Mr. Bush had used so often. He narrowed the United States’ military objectives to destroying Al Qaeda — which is thought to be based largely in Pakistan — while simply subverting the Taliban’s ability to once again take over the country.

“All we need to do is degrade the Taliban enough for the Afghan Army to be able to deal with them,” one of Mr. Obama’s top national security aides said recently.

James Dobbins, who tried to formulate an Afghan approach for the Bush administration — and wrote of his frustrations as attention turned to Iraq — told Congress earlier this year that the objective should be to “ensure that fewer innocent Afghans are killed next year than this year.”

“In a counterinsurgency campaign,” he said, “this is the difference between winning and losing.”

But even Mr. Obama’s most limited goals require a legitimate government in Kabul, one with the authority to manage the army and to rebuild an incompetent and corrupt police force. It also needs the ability to install competent governors and spend Western aid effectively.

Before the election was effectively ended with Mr. Abdullah’s withdrawal from the Nov. 7 runoff, Mr. Obama asked his national security aides and the State Department to come up with an agenda they could press on Mr. Karzai. It included reaching out to his political opponents, cleaning out the worst of his governors and ministers, and announcing a major new push on corruption. And it included peeling away — through whatever inducements work — the least committed of the Taliban, or at least those with no links to Al Qaeda.

“If this is to be a turning point,” said Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who helped twist Mr. Karzai’s arm to accept that he must go along with a runoff, “we must strengthen the capacity of the Afghan government and insist that its leaders embrace lasting reforms.”

The United States has already spent nearly a quarter-trillion dollars in Afghanistan, all the while talking about those lasting reforms. The Bush administration made periodic efforts to warn Mr. Karzai that his own family’s reputed links to corruption threatened his government. It sent mission after mission to teach good governance (Bush teaching good governance? No wonder they're so corrupt), some of which succeeded and some of which ran into what former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called “the Afghan allergy” to dictates from foreign occupiers.

For eight years, the United States and its allies have been struggling to train an Afghan Army; while it currently has a force of more than 90,000, American commanders put the number who can sustain themselves in a fight at closer to 50,000.

And in the end, that force — an Afghan Army that can be trusted to defend the central government — is Mr. Obama’s route out of the country. If that army emerges as a trusted one in Afghanistan, able to control significant areas of the country with the cooperation of the local tribal leaders, Mr. Obama may be able to declare that the country cannot again be overrun by militants. Only then could he pull back from what he termed over the summer a “war of necessity.”

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