Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
from The Great Debate:
Last year, under the leadership of President Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan slipped three places on a widely respected international index of corruption and became the world's second-most corrupt country. It now ranks 179th out of 180, a place long held by Somalia.
According to a United Nations report published in January, Afghans paid $2.5 billion in bribes in 2009, roughly a quarter of the country's Gross Domestic Product (not counting revenue from the opium trade). The survey, based on interviews with 7,600 people, said corruption was the biggest concern of Afghans.
On the military front in a war more than halfway through its ninth year, attacks on U.S. forces and their NATO allies totaled 21,000 in 2009, a 75 percent increase over 2008, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) a week before Karzai's visit to Washington. The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, noted that Taliban insurgents had set up a "widespread paramilitary shadow government...in a majority of Afghanistan's 34 provinces."
The Pentagon, also in advance of Karzai's visit (in the second week of May), reported that Afghans support his government in only 29 of the 121 districts the U.S. military consider most strategically important.
from Tales from the Trail:
Former Vice President Dick Cheney tonight joins a chorus of critics who say President Barack Obama is taking way too long to decide whether to send another 40,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
Cheney, no fan of any of the current administration's foreign policy initiatives, prodded the White House to fulfill the president's promise to give the U.S. armed forces a clear mission in Afghanistan and to do it now.