The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

C.I.A. Review Highlights Afghan Leader’s Woes

November 5, 2006
C.I.A. Review Highlights Afghan Leader’s Woes
By DAVID ROHDE and JAMES RISEN

HERAT, Afghanistan, Nov. 4 — A recent Central Intelligence Agency assessment found that the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, had been significantly weakened by rising popular frustration with his American-backed government, American officials say.

The assessment found that Mr. Karzai’s government and security forces continued to struggle to exert authority beyond Kabul, said a senior American official who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. The assessment also found that increasing numbers of Afghans viewed Mr. Karzai’s government as corrupt, failing to deliver promised reconstruction and too weak to protect the country from rising Taliban attacks.

“The ability to project out into the countryside, perceptions of corruption in the government,” said the official, listing Afghan complaints. “The failure to deliver the services.”

The assessment, which was conducted before Mr. Karzai’s visit to Washington in late September, echoes the frustration that has gathered force in Afghanistan since the spring, and American officials in Washington and Kabul are expressing increasingly dire warnings regarding the situation here. Ronald E. Neumann, the American ambassador in Kabul, said in a recent interview that the United States faced “stark choices” in Afghanistan. Averting failure, he said, would take “multiple years” and “multiple billions.”

“We’re going to have to stay at it,” he said. “Or we’re going to fail and the country will fall apart again.”

Officials from the United States Agency for International Development, the government’s main development arm, said they were rushing $14 million in assistance to southern Afghanistan, where a recent NATO offensive routed the Taliban, but suicide bombings continue to damage public confidence.

“We’ve spent about $800,000 on displaced people,” said Leon S. Waskin, the agency’s mission director in Afghanistan. “We’re planning to start a program to repair agricultural infrastructure and damaged houses.”

The C.I.A. declined to comment on its assessment. In addition to that report, the National Security Council began a classified, interagency review of American training and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan this summer after violence increased.

While that review has not been completed, officials said it was expected to include a request for additional financing. Over the past year, the Bush administration reduced financing for Afghanistan by 30 percent and proposed the withdrawal of up to 3,000 American troops. At least 143 American and NATO troops have been killed in the Taliban resurgence this year, 55 more than died in all of 2005, and the planned withdrawal was canceled.

Gordon D. Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said the interagency review covered anti-Taliban and counternarcotics activities as well as efforts to counter extremism and to integrate the central government with local and provincial governments.

“We are proud of the progress that has been made in the last five years, but know there is more to do,” he said. “The United States is committed to the people of Afghanistan for the long term.”

Mr. Neumann, who has been the ambassador here for just over a year, laid out a full menu of tasks that he said the American-led effort needed to accomplish in Afghanistan, including reviving the country’s economy, building roads and power plants and improving security. He said plans drafted in 2002 to train the army and police force needed to be revamped and expanded.

Mr. Neumann, a decorated Vietnam veteran whose father served as the American ambassador to Afghanistan from 1966 to 1973, said country’s security forces had to be better supplied. “We have a war, not in all parts of the country, but we have a war,” he said. “So we have to build a much better equipped army and a much better-equipped police.”

Training the police represents an even larger challenge than strengthening the army, Mr. Neumann said. “The police need a whole huge, major effort,” he said. “That wasn’t what the program was designed to do when we were at peace.”

The senior American official said Afghans widely saw the force as corrupt and failing to provide security.

A sharp increase in suicide attacks and roadside bombings over the past two years has persuaded many Afghans that security has sharply deteriorated under Mr. Karzai. The tactics appear to have migrated from Iraq, according to the official, probably via the Internet and people traveling between the countries.

“There’s not been a tradition of the suicide bombers,” the official said. “Psychologically, this has had a major impact.”

Taliban commanders continue to use parts of Pakistan as a haven to plan attacks in Afghanistan, American officials said. But popular support for the Taliban now exists inside Afghanistan as well.

The Taliban fighters appear to be attracting support from disaffected Afghans, and they are also coercing Afghans to join them.

“How much of this is support for the Taliban?” the senior American official asked. “How much is coerced? How much of it is gun for hire? How much of it is a young man who has nothing else to do and this sounds pretty exciting? Our analysis is that there’s some degree of all of those.”

Taliban fighters and drug traffickers appear to be using the same criminal networks, the official said.

“What we think is happening is that there are links at the local level,” the official said. “There is certainly the use of the networks — networks of informants, networks of smuggling routes, communications, finances.”

Some Taliban fighters are currying support among farmers by promising to protect the opium crops from government eradication efforts, the official said.

One reason the central government has trouble exerting control beyond Kabul, the official said, is that it has little means of connecting to the country’s strong village councils.

To extend its authority, Mr. Karzai’s central government is dependent on Afghanistan’s provincial and district governments — the equivalent of state and county governments in the United States — that remain weak or dominated by corrupt local officials.

“There’s no transmission belt that goes between Kabul and the local government,” the official said. “You lost a whole generation of education and bureaucrats and people that can take a government plan and make it real on a local level.”

Mr. Neumann said creating such a link was an enormous challenge, but one the United States must face. A representative government and stronger army, he said, are the only means to prevent the country from disintegrating into rival factions as it did during the 1990s.

“Ultimately you’re going to succeed with a policy of building an army in a country with a participatory government,” he said. “Or the country is going to fragment again.”

David Rohde reported from Afghanistan and Washington, and James Risen from Washington.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/05/world/asia/05afghan.html?ei=5088&en=0039ab3c51746a39&ex=1320382800&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&pagewanted=print

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