Saturday, July 03, 2010

A quagmire by any other name . . .

I'm still waiting for any Democratic or Republican politician to coherently explain to me why we're still there after 9 years. Remember --- coherently.

By David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times
July 2, 2010 | 5:00 p.m.

In the struggle to win over Kandahar civilians and weaken the Taliban, U.S. commanders have ordered NATO troops to join with civilian development experts to create a competent government where none exists. But the effort has so far seen few concrete results.

Development projects have been modest and plagued by insurgent attacks or threats against Afghan workers. Residents complain of shakedowns by Afghan police. Many U.S. soldiers say they don't fully trust their nominal allies in the Afghan police or army, who are scheduled to take responsibility for security by next summer.

What little government exists in Kandahar is overshadowed by a cabal of Afghan hustlers who have milked connections to high government officials to earn illicit fortunes. Last month, a congressional subcommittee said Afghan warlords have siphoned off millions of dollars through protection rackets involving security escorts for North Atlantic Treaty Organization convoys.

Corruption is another corrosive problem. The national government of President Hamid Karzai is riddled with officials who have enriched themselves through bribes, government contracts and the lucrative drug trade.

At Camp Nathan Smith in downtown Kandahar, the secured offices of U.S. development officials feature a chart of the Karzai family tree. Laid out like a prosecutor's crime family operation, the chart documents the expansive business empire of Karzai's extended family. Western officials have accused Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, of parlaying family connections into an enterprise that controls trucking, security, drug and protection operations.

If that isn't the classic definition of the word quagmire -- I don't know what is.


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