In the Arena

The Trouble in Afghanistan

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Sarah Chayes, who walks the walk–she lives in a Kandahar cooperative–talks the talk about what’s wrong with Afghanistan in today’s Washington Post. Her details of daily life in Kandahar are telling, and so is her conclusion:

What I’ve witnessed in Kandahar since late 2002 has amounted to an invasion by proxy, with the Pakistani military once again using the Taliban to gain a foothold in Afghanistan. The only reason this invasion has made progress is the appalling behavior of Afghan officials. Why would anyone defend officials who pillage them? If the Taliban gouge out the eyes of people they accuse of colluding with the Afghan government, as they did recently in Kandahar, while the government treats those same citizens like rubbish, why should anyone take the risk that allegiance to Kabul entails?

More and more Kandaharis are not. More and more are severing contact with the Karzai regime and all it stands for, rejecting even development assistance. When Taliban thugs come to their mosques demanding money or food, they pay up. Many actively collaborate, as a means of protest.

Again, as I wrote this week, the first job of the Obama Administration is to let Hamid Karzai know that we will no longer fund his corruption. We will send aid directly to the Afghan National Army, which is a surprisingly fit organization–and we will help localities and provinces develop from the bottom up. Most important of all: unlike the Bush Administration, we will pay close attention to the situation in Kabul. We will no longer be complicit in his corruption.