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.
At some point this month or early June, the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan will outnumber those in Iraq, writes Michael E. O ‘Hanlon of the Brookings Institution. It’s an artificial milestone but it is worth noting because it tells you a good deal about the two wars and where the United States stands in each.
The cross-over is also a measure of how big and rapid has the shift been in America’s military power toward Afghanistan since President Barack Obama took office last year promising to bring the troops home.
from Global News Journal:
Germans have spent the last six decades trying to be as un-militaristic as possible.
Their struggle to make a complete U-turn from their belligerent past has caused many an awkward moment for the country and its NATO allies. In avoiding the mere mention of the word “war” that seemed to be all but banished from their vocabulary, German leaders raised in a post-war era and the motto "Nie Wieder Krieg!" (No more war ever) have gone through tortuous tongue-twisting excursions about what the increasingly deadly mission in Afghanistan isn’t – a war.
from Tales from the Trail:
Americans have doubts over whether President Barack Obama's new Afghanistan strategy will ultimately result in victory, but a majority say the war is morally justified.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corp poll finds that 57 percent said the most likely outcome for the United States in Afghanistan would be a stalemate, with 29 percent predicting victory.
Some of my nastiest moments as a war correspondent in the Caucasus and Central Asia had nothing to do with bullets, explosions or tanks. It is one thing to cover a conflict where you speak the language and quite another when you don’t. Working with a poor interpreter is worrisome at best, downright dangerous at worst.
I got by most of the time by speaking Russian, which is not an option in Afghanistan today. A recent PBS documentary on the conflict showed a U.S. squad in one isolated village having great difficulty making itself understood properly because the interpreter was second-rate.