Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
Afghanistan at the Brink – Column by Roger Cohen
By ROGER COHEN
Across this dirt-poor country — think sub-Saharan Africa — small signs of initiative and awakening abound: new carpet-weaving businesses, surging wheat production, just-opened schools, solar panels on mud-brick homes. Growth is more than 8 percent.
Since the Taliban’s fall in 2001, four million Afghan refugees have come home in one of the biggest post-1945 returns of people. About 38 percent of school students are girls, up from zero. Roads, clinics, mine-clearing and several million cellphones are changing Afghan lives.
All this may seem a decent return on about $22 billion of American investment since 2002. A further $5.6 billion is under review for 2008. The strategic aim is a stable Afghanistan that is no longer for rent by terrorists from one-eyed mullahs.
But if Afghanistan is not Iraq, it’s not delivered from war either. Lebanon looks stable by comparison. Like Poland, Afghanistan has suffered the fate of a weak state between powerful neighbors. Unlike Poland, it grows poppy and inhabits a region of explosive volatility.
… I heard many assessments of how long Afghanistan will depend on Western military assistance, but Abdul Jabbar Sabit, the attorney general, was bluntest: “The Afghan Army will not be able to defend the country for 10 years, so the international force has to be here for at least a decade.”
… An intense U.S. effort is going into producing a credible 72,000-man Afghan Army by 2009. The number may be met, but the force’s ability to sustain itself and mount large operations will lag. Capt. Sylvain Caron, a Canadian “mentoring” a nascent battalion, said “the cultural change will take 20 years.”
The police are way behind the army. Training has been a disaster. Low salaries, belatedly rising to $100 from $50 a month, have made corruption endemic, particularly in narco-territory. Work on a credible police force has scarcely begun. More