1 December 2009
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In his Tuesday evening speech, Obama only lightly touched on the cancer of corruption in the Karzai government, which is broad, deep, cynical, arrogant, and desperately hated by the Afghan people. Too many Afghans say that the Taliban insurgency is fighting U.S. troops because they support, promote, and protect this corrupt Afghan government. To them, sending in 30,000 more troops is the exact opposite signal the U.S. should be sending.
Obama speaks of America’s role in making the world safe for Democracy, but democracy cannot take root when partnered with a distrusted, discredited and corrupt government. It cannot develop in a nation where most police are on the take, most government officials profit from drug trafficking and fraud, and the army leadership is trusted by no one—including the foot soldiers.
No amount of training by U.S. troops can inject pride, trust, and honesty in Afghan troops and law enforcement when these people know absolutely there is no pride, trust or honesty at the any level of their government.
It is very possible that Obama’s 18-month mission will be a fool’s errand. The Talibs can melt away in the hills, while the Afghan winter of discontent deepens under the heel of the drug dealers, embezzlers, skimmers, thieves, and self-promoters who will continue to rule, with the American government’s apparent blessing.
What will these 100,000 American soldiers will be doing in Afghanistan? We’ll surely see an increase in the number of sad headlines of IEDs and suicide bombers. Will we see a freer press? Will we see jailed journalists released from prison? Will the number of desperate Afghan refugees decrease? Will businesses continue to pay bribes to officials at every step of their venture? Will government ministers’ bank accounts continue to grow while Afghan women die in childbirth at a greater rate than the rest of the world? Will any new lights go on in Afghanistan, or any new hospitals be built? Will even one honest, competent judge be appointed?
Obama didn’t mention these things, or the many other similar conditions that are the real root cause of the desperation of Afghans. There are millions of disaffected and disillusioned Afghans, who, if the Karzai government remains unchanged, will happily join the Taliban for a few dollars a day—that is a sad and obvious truth.
It is sad that the U.S. is caught in the middle. It is sad that the greatest beneficiary of the thirty billion dollars a year the U.S. will spend on Afghanistan very little will address the real and tragic basic needs of the Afghan people. The military and their contractors and suppliers apparently will get it all. What a tragedy, considering that the need is so great both in the U.S., where tens of thousands of jobless people are being forced from their homes—facing empty food pantries, no health care, hope for an education, or a future for their children. Ironically, tens of thousands of Afghans face the same thing.
So is sending 30,000 foot soldiers the solution to both situations?
Would 30 billion dollars (and you can count on that number to at least triple) in military expenditure in the U.S. solve our economic problems? If not, why believe it will solve Afghanistan’s problems? Most Afghans I hear from see their government, not the Taliban, as the greatest obstacle to peace, justice, and democracy. So, with greatest respect, the question again is what will these 100,000 troops be doing to solve Afghanistan’s real problems? And what will they be doing to solve America’s real problems?