Surging Over the Cracks In Afghanistan
The Surge in Iraq essentially became a plan to bribe militants with guns and barrowloads of cash to not attack US troops and that left the core corruption, graft and incompetencies of the Iraqi government untouched and thus left the seeds of future conflict while temporarily tamping down violence to a level which would still horrify anyone West of Beirut. The planned surge in Afghanistan is likely to do the same there.
Want to be a provincial police chief? It will cost you $100,000.
Want to drive a convoy of trucks loaded with fuel across the country? Be prepared to pay $6,000 per truck, so the police will not tip off the Taliban.
Need to settle a lawsuit over the ownership of your house? About $25,000, depending on the judge.
“It is very shameful, but probably I will pay the bribe,” Mohammed Naim, a young English teacher, said as he stood in front of the Secondary Courthouse in Kabul. His brother had been arrested a week before, and the police were demanding $4,000 for his release. “Everything is possible in this country now. Everything.”
Kept afloat by billions of dollars in American and other foreign aid, the government of Afghanistan is shot through with corruption and graft. From the lowliest traffic policeman to the family of President Hamid Karzai himself, the state built on the ruins of the Taliban government seven years ago now often seems to exist for little more than the enrichment of those who run it.
It's utterly unclear how 30,000 extra American soldiers in the South are intended to remedy this situation - and if corruption remains untouched then allied forces will have to remain there in perpetuity to ensure any level of cohesive governance at all. Thus the two greatest drivers of the Taliban's resurgent insurgency will remain intact and anything done in Helmland takes on the character of an extended game of whack-a-mole.
However, extending cycles of violence until the point where they dropped off the medias radar worked in Iraq and gave the US an excuse to head (mostly) for the exits. The same might be true in Afghanistan. Matt Yglesias writes:
What I do think it’s worth reflecting on is what a big deal it really turns out to have been that the Bush administration screwed up back in the winter of 2001-2002 and failed to capute Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, and the rest of the top al-Qaeda / Taliban leadership. Had we done that, I think we still would have been under a general moral and prudential obligation to try to assist the people of Afghanistan. But transforming Afghanistan into a prosperous, stable government with an effective central authority has always been a tall order. And if we’d achieved our core security objectives back six and a half years ago, then the stakes would be much lower if down the road foreign troops started to wear out their welcome for whatever reason. We could just leave.
Foreign troops have already worn out their welcome - even Karzai is looking for a timetable nowadays. But we're no closer to "a prosperous, stable government with an effective central authority" than we've ever been in Iraq - just as the Kurds or the federalist/seperatists of Basra - yet we're still leaving. It occurs to me that an Obama administration might look to re-engineer the exit from Iraq for Afghanistan. Paper over the cracks for long enough if they can, declare victory and visibly leave, while repurposing a large part of any occupation forces as "trainers". Then, of course, any later collapse isn't officially our fault for invading in the first place...
Crossposted from Newshoggers