A new CNN poll shows us that the American people are still turned off the Afghan war. We'll that's not a surprise, but we have to keep talking about it so it's not lost in the great health care debate. I met Meteor Blades at the Netroots Nation party and we had a long talk about the war.
Here's some of what he said.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said Sunday that the situation is not good in Afghanistan and that it must improve in the next 12 to 18 months or there will be congressional and popular pressure against the policy. But what would mark improvement? Fewer killings? Better delivery of services? A smaller poppy crop? Improved infrastructure? Even the Bush administration conceded rhetorically that there was no wholly military solution in Afghanistan. The Obama White House has taken that idea a good deal more seriously. "Civilian surge" and "it’s not about how many enemies we kill; it’s about how many civilians we protect" have now become the mantra.
The Pentagon budget for Afghanistan this year is $65 billion. The USAID budget of civilian aid for winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan and Pakistan is $4.4 billion. The words deliver one message, the dollars another. It’s not that the administration doesn’t have worthwhile ideas about how to improve life for the average Afghan – electricity and clean water and a $12,000 school would make the typical rural village a far better place. It’s the implementation that isn’t happening. While 17,000 more troops have been making their way to Afghanistan, only 92 of the State Department’s promised 313 new civilians have been hired.
Many of those civilians are doing terrific humanitarian work. But most of the billions they are supposed to be sinking into worthwhile projects are being sucked away by corruption long before it reaches the locales where it is supposed to be spent. This, accompanied with the slowness with which the civilian end of things has been delivered since the Bush administration, is cause for much understandable grumbling by the Afghan people...read on