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Opinion: The forgotten formula in Afghanistan

The Afghan people must be persuaded that the government, not the Taliban, is a reliable advocate.

As examples, the Monitor chronicled USAID’s failure to build a $1-million irrigation canal and a hydro-turbine micro-power plant. All of Afghanistan’s problems — ignorance, torpor, corruption, lawlessness and warfare — all combined to doom the projects. (USAID’s need to spend all of its money before the budget year ended contributed, too).

Since the Monitor published that story early this month, the situation has worsened. Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has once again shown his true nature. Early this year, the United States twisted his arm, forced him to set up a so-called “Major Crimes Task Force” charged with attacking corruption within the government. American and British law enforcement officers are "advising" the task force. Robert Mueller, director of the FBI, came to Kabul for the new Task Force’s inauguration in February.

Karzai, speaking to his foreign benefactors last month, lauded the new unit and promised to give it “the legal basis and resources to act quickly and decisively.” Last week, the task force did act decisively. It arrested one of Karzai’s most senior aids, charged with taking a bribe worth about $10,000. Karzai was furious. He ordered a government investigation of the task force.

When that happens — something similar happened in Iraq a few years ago — you know the state’s anti-corruption efforts are doomed. Karzai himself repeated his laughable, longstanding allegation, that Western nations are responsible for most of Afghanistan’s corruption.

A few days ago, Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, told the French newspaper Le Monde that the United States and other coalition forces were losing the war in Afghanistan because they had “lost the battle to win hearts and minds” of Afghans.

“To win the support of the Afghan people,” he said, “we must bring them economic development, and prove that we can not only change their lives, but above all improve them.”

Zardari hasn’t done much to improve the lives of his own people and may have been trying to deflect attention from the Wikileaks disclosures about his own country.

Nonetheless, on Afghanistan, he is correct.