Small Wars Journal

Afghanistan's Other Front

Afghanistan's Other Front - Joseph Kearns Goodwin, New York Times opinion.

Allegations of ballot-stuffing in the presidential election in Afghanistan last month are now so widespread that a recount is necessary, and perhaps even a runoff. Yet this electoral chicanery pales in comparison to the systemic, day-to-day corruption within the administration of President Hamid Karzai, who has claimed victory in the election. Without a concerted campaign to fight this pervasive venality, all our efforts there, including the sending of additional troops, will be in vain.

I have just returned from Afghanistan, where I spent seven months as a special adviser to NATO's director of communications. On listening tours across the country, we left behind the official procession of armored SUV's, bristling guns and imposing flak jackets that too often encumber coalition forces when they arrive in local villages. Dressed in civilian clothes and driven in ordinary cars, we were able to move around in a manner less likely to intimidate and more likely to elicit candor.

The recurring complaint I heard from Afghans centered on the untenable encroachment of government corruption into their daily lives - the homeowner who has to pay a bribe to get connected to the sewage system, the defendant who tenders payment to a judge for a favorable verdict. People were so incensed with the current government's misdeeds that I often heard the disturbing refrain: "If Karzai is re-elected, then I am going to join the Taliban." ...

More at The New York Times.


CPT Matthew W. Davis (not verified)

Thu, 09/17/2009 - 10:26am

This article discusses a unique perspective concerning the on-going fight in Afghanistan. A part of our strategy there is to help improve conditions within the government and especially improve the perceptions of the Afghan people where it concerns the Afghan government. The people have to believe that the government is responsive, fair, and trustworthy. The prevalent amount of corruption within this government system is outstanding and is counter to everything the Afghan government should be trying to accomplish. This government and all its subordinate agencies has to be held accountable in the eyes of the people. I agree with the article's writer that the international community needs to flex the right amount of pressure in order to stem the corruption. The Afghan government needs to understand that it requires the support of its people in order to defeat the Taliban and maintain security. They will never gain this support if the people don't trust them.