General Petraeus hearing to put Afghanistan war, not him, in hot seat
At General Petraeus’s confirmation hearing Tuesday, legislators are expected to endorse the respected commander but scrutinize the patchy progress of the nine-year Afghanistan war.
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Since building a better, cleaner government is part of America’s counterinsurgency strategy, Petraeus has his work cut out for him in convincing Congress, and the American public, that the situation can be turned around. Malalai Ishaq Zai, an Afghan lawmaker from Kandahar, told the Monitor last week that the US must do more to crack down on corrupt local officials close to Karzai's government.Skip to next paragraph
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“We all know this is going to take more time,” says a Western diplomat working on governance issues here. “The tribal structure isn’t as strong as it used to be after 31 years of conflict and narcomafias [drug gangs] and strongmen have come to establish their own rules. And let’s not forget the Taliban. These forces have degraded security, but it can be restored.”
After the Soviet Union was driven out of Afghanistan in 1989, lawlessness and corruption touched off a civil war that gave rise to the Taliban. As the hard-line Islamic group marched across the country to seize control of Kabul, it convinced many ordinary Afghans that it could provide better law and order.
“In those days people felt compelled to support the Taliban,” says Mohammed Akram, who leads a Karzai government effort to reach out to Taliban fighters. “There was tribal fighting, robbery everywhere, abuse of women by gunmen. The government needs to careful about corruption.”
Plea for patience
Petraeus is expected to appeal today for patience with the counterinsurgency strategy now under way. Offensive operations are meant to put pressure on the Taliban, and ambitious plans are being drawn to curtail the power of warlords in Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city and the spiritual home of the Taliban.
President Obama has said he’d like to start withdrawing combat troops from Afghanistan by June 2011. How much time beyond that a weary Congress and American public will give its next war commander remains unclear.
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