1 August 2009
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The top U.S. military leader in Afghanistan says that stopping corrupt Afghan government officials is crucial to his new strategy, according to civilian and military Pentagon officials contacted by the Associate Press. Gen. Stanley McChrystal has reassessed the strategy of attacking Taliban strongholds and will replace it with a focus on protecting the local population. By not specifically mentioning protection from whom, observers in Afghanistan feel that he is warning Afghan officials that it is time for them to respect the Afghan constitution, observe its human rights provisions, and provide a justice system that is not dependent on bribes, cronyism, and religious hypocrisy.
McChrystal feels that the U.S. military must take care in their dealings with Afghan leaders, that they are not perceived by the Afghan population to be empowering local officials. According to KabulPress commentators in Afghanistan, this lack of trust is the primary reason that the Taliban have gained strong footholds outside of Kabul. Afghans experience daily abuse of power and corruption by Karzai government appointees. In some blatant cases, government officials have been assaulted and chased from the region by local mobs frustrated by the lack of a fair justice system. The Taliban have found it easy to gain control in such situations.
This message is finally getting to the upper levels of the U.S. military, and “getting troops more active in fighting corruption” is one of McChrystal’s top recommendations.
These recommendations are part of a document to be released in two weeks that will ask for more troops and money to speed up training of 400,000 new Afghan soldiers and police. Key to this strategy, say military leaders, is that these new law enforcement officials be honest and fair in dealing with the Afghan people, which has not been their experience since the invasion by U.S. and coalition forces in 2001.