A handful of links:
- Paul McCleary has a good article on the Afghan NCOP and police forces: “And generally speaking,” [Ward] added, “when they’re partnered, we see the right kinds of behavior.” But the question is: what happens when they’re not partnered? Good question.
- The NYT At War blog reviews reports on Afghan opinion polls. According to the findings, corruption remains the third-biggest concern to Afghans, following security and unemployment. One in seven adults experienced direct bribery in the past two years. The total of bribes paid by Afghans in 2009 added to roughly $1 billion, almost double the amount in 2007. The average bribe paid was $156. There are some nice charts, as well. How on earth does an average Afghan have $156 to burn on a bribe?
- The Big Picture covers Afghanistan, June 2010. Quite frankly the best photojournalism column around. This gets my pick, though there are some truly awe-striking photos in this collection. There are at least three or four of Afghan girls and women, as well.
- MikeF (hi Mike!) started a robust discussion of David Kilcullen’s Counterinsurgency at Small Wars Council worth your time; he very kindly posted links to Starbuck’s review and my own. Now that I’m a bit removed from my initial reactions to the book, I do think it has merit, certainly as an introduction to counterinsurgency as a practical concept and as a handy portable version of the doctrine, such as it is. I’m doing a re-read of “The Accidental Guerilla” at the moment, and I do think it’s interesting to see how Kilcullen’s ideas have shifted over time, as he’s gained more insight and experience. Still, as a whole book I do think it has some structural flaws. Well worth the $15 (₤10).
- And also, h/t Starbuck for Bing West’s review of Counterinsurgency at the National Interest. I particularly liked this line: Stack plays Thomas Hobbes to Kilcullen’s John Locke. Very well put.
- If you were as baffled by this whole Dave Weigel-getting-fired business as I was, check out this Diavlog with the man in question. (H/t Ackerman.)
- CHUP on the burqa ban and fear. Such policies and practices, regardless if it means banning the burqa or banning criticism of it, are ultimately unproductive because it further polarizes the debate rather than resolving any of its underlying issues. Good discussion in the comments.
- As you all surely know, Mattis is for CENTCOM which is an excellent power shuffle around the board. One might think his pass over for Commandant was orchestrated to get him into CENTCOM, if one was a particularly twitchy conspiracy theorist. Which I am not. For more on Mattis, AFJ has excerpts from Tom Ricks’ “Fiasco” available for ungated reading.
- Paul Staniland recently did a guest post series at the Monkey Cage on how counterinsurgencies end. I wish they were all linked together, but if you have the time its worth poking around for them all.
- Embedistan, also on the At War blog.
Juan Cole has the best response to Mullen’s meeting with the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday:
The tendency to make analogies from Iraq to Afghanistan is disturbing. They are not similar. Iraq is an oil state with substantial resources. It used to have a high literacy rate before US/UN sanctions of the 1990s, and even now probably the rate is 76%– so the troops can most often read and write. In contrast, Afghanistan is dirt poor and the literacy rate of its troops is only 10%.
IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN ARE NOT THE SAME COUNTRY, THE SAME WAR, OR THE SAME CHALLENGES.
You’d think that would be easier knowledge to retain, but apparently it’s not.
Joseph Kearns Goodwin (son of Doris Kearns Goodwin, a fascinating US Presidential historian) has an op-ed in the NYT today indicating that election fraud is one of many issues Afghanis have with their government’s influence on their lives:
Yet this electoral chicanery pales in comparison to the systemic, day-to-day corruption within the administration of President Hamid Karzai, who has claimed victory in the election. Without a concerted campaign to fight this pervasive venality, all our efforts there, including the sending of additional troops, will be in vain.
This goes hand in hand with Ajmal Samadi’s suggestion of an Afghani Transitional Authority to oversee the management of the country and stem the tide of corruption until the election process itself has been declared accurate and lawful.
In order to lift Afghanistan from its current political crisis and most effectively address the growing accusations of election fraud, the international community should pressure Karzai to transfer power to a transitional administration that would run the government until the election controversy is resolved and a new president is sworn in. [Radio Free Europe; Radio Liberty]
Let’s be honest: the credibility of the Afghani government and in particular its presidential governance is low, to say the least. Given that NATO/ISAF forces are the security backing Karzai needs to maintain his position of power, it does not seem unreasonable that that same international security force could implement a transitional authority to achieve the goals of 1) insuring a fair and accurate election; and 2) working towards eradicating corruption in the civil government itself. But from the rhetoric, it seems that NATO is more inclined to play to the farce of democracy taking place than to deal with the realities of a failed democratic governance itself; implementing such a transitional authority would clearly undermine the image of that government, though one could successfully argue that the calls of fraud has essentially done that already.
I think, though, that such a transitional authority would probably last much longer than it was intended to, while it’s extra-lawfulness could more effectively deal with governmental corruption than an already corrupt President could.
On the heels of this, Joanna Nathan’s article from Af-Pak Channel addressing the idea that bribing tribal leaders to push forward NATO goals is a good one does better to answer Fareed Zakaria’s surprisingly stupid call for exactly that better than I could.
Rented allies are not reliable allies. Simply buying or bribing more commanders of whatever ilk will mean more instability in an environment where entrenched interests in a war economy are already playing the international community — not the other way around. Money is leverage and the populations of both Afghanistan and the U.S. need to be involved in debating how it is spent, rather than grubby backhanders. This must include clearly agreed public standards and measures — and sanctions if they are not met.
Not to mention that there is clearly no way to further corruption by bribing tribal leaders into doing something. Obviously. Yeah.