Afghans on troop surge debate: It's the corruption, stupid.
Afghan leaders say any effort that doesn't address election fraud and corrupt officials will fail.
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While he wants more boots on the ground, McChrystal also agrees that they won't do much good without fundamental changes in Afghan political and police behavior. "Additional resources are required, but focusing on force or resource requirements misses the point entirely,'' he wrote. "The key take away from this assessment is the urgent need for a significant change... in the way that we think and operate."Skip to next paragraph
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Afghans focused on fraud
The question uppermost in many Afghan tribal leaders' minds is how any good can come of an election that many of them believe was fixed to favor President Karzai.
"How is the fraud good for the country? The government offices are full of corruption, and it will be like this to the end," says Haji Abdul Ahad, a tribal elder from Helmand Province. Says Haji Jahndi Khan from Paktika Province: "We can't improve daily life with fraud."
Fraudulent election practices kept good people from winning provincial council seats, says Zabit Mohammad Karim from Balkh Province. "Without power and money, you can't do anything in this country. If we have fraud how are we going to improve the corruption?"
To be sure, most of the Afghans interviewed for this article supported sending more US forces, largely because they don't trust local security forces. Nor do they expect to be able to trust police and Afghan officials anytime soon, if a government comes to power through a rigged vote.
Echoes of Soviet occupation
Afghan analysts in Kabul share their skepticism. For security analyst Haroun Mir and political scientist Wadir Safi, the present situation echoes the failed Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Russia committed more troops in the 1980s than current NATO levels, but "the Afghan people refused to accept the authority of the central government," says Mr. Mir.
"The minimum requirement for an effective counterinsurgency is some degree of acceptance of the political authorities one is trying to support," says William Maley, an Afghanistan expert at the Australian National University. "If you have a series of events such as the Aug. 20 election – which has the effect of delegitimizing the existing political authorities – it's really like pushing water uphill with a stick."
Anthony Cordesman, a US expert who advised McChrystal on his report and favors sending more troops, argues that legitimacy has a lot less to do with elections than some are suggesting.
"Legitimacy as you are describing is very Western, it's not how Afghans perceive it. Afghans perceive legitimacy as what the government actually does: Does it provide security, services, and some kind of tangible aid?" says Mr. Cordesman.