The U.S. political leadership is reluctant to send the additional 40,000 troops the U.S. commander in Afghanistan wants. That would increase the U.S. force to 108,000 troops. In the past month, Taliban and al Qaeda violence has left about 300 dead. Most of the victims were killed in bombing attacks, or attacks done in cities to gain maximum medium exposure. These attacks were meant to inspire fear, and the UN, which lost seven dead when the Taliban attacked a UN guesthouse in Kabul, has moved over a thousand personnel to safer quarters or outside the country. The UN has 5,600 employees in Afghanistan, but only about 1,100 of them are foreigners.
The Afghan Election Commission declared Hamid Karzai the winner of the presidential election, because his runoff opponent withdrew. Karzai promised to clean up the corruption. This is unlikely to happen. Taking, and paying, bribes is part of the Afghan culture. Only a minority of Afghans are even familiar with anything else, and few of them are willing to go against tradition while in Afghanistan. It's one thing to lose the bribery habit while living in the West, it's something else again to try and say no when back home. On the down side, all the bribes and shady dealings means that that you don't have the efficiency and productivity that emigrating Afghans so admire in the West. Thousands of Afghans have returned from the West, determined to make Afghanistan less corrupt and more prosperous. But they are a small minority. So far, they are not having much impact. The government of Afghanistan is deep into corrupt practices, and has no motivation to change. As for the foreigners; you just lie to them. A popular sport among government officials is coming up with new ways to deceive the foreigners about anti-corruption measures, while continuing to plunder all the foreign aid coming into the country. The Afghan government has no local income to speak of (in the 1990s, the Taliban got by via a heavy tax on the heroin trade), so the only money available for stealing comes from foreigners.
The Taliban are telling a lot of their operatives to stay inside Afghanistan over the Winter and try to organize attacks within southern cities, particularly Kandahar. The Taliban have plenty of cash to pay for Winter accommodations, and to bribe anyone they can't bully into cooperating. This is good times for the Taliban, as the drug gangs are paying them lots of money to keep the foreign troops occupied, and away from drug production and smuggling operations. Lots of jobs for adventurous, and unemployed, youth. Lots of bribes for ambitious and greedy military and government officials. The Pushtun tribes of the south know that all that drug money will buy them victory in the coming civil war with the rest of the Afghan tribes (60 percent of them are not Pushtun, and don't like the Pushtun very much.) The Pushtun feel they should run Afghanistan, and are split between those who are willing to do it with a Taliban/drug gang coalition (that operated, not very successfully, in the 1990s), or a coalition, including non-Pushtuns, subsidized by foreigners.
November 3, 2009: In Helmand province, an Afghan policeman walked into a British compound and killed five British soldiers, and wounded six others. The killer had been a policeman for three years, and it's not known if he was simply mad at the British for being recently being criticized by one of his advisors, or had been bribed by the Taliban. Both conditions occur frequently with the Afghan police.
November 2, 2009: The first of 2,244 special, all-terrain, MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) have arrived. The M-ATV (MRAP-All Terrain Vehicle) is a 15 ton, 4x4 (with independent wheel suspension) armored vehicle. Payload is 1.8 tons, and it can carry five passengers (including a gunner). Top speed is 105 kilometers an hour, and range on internal fuel is 515 kilometers. The M-ATV is slightly larger than a hummer. The reason for the M-ATV is that all other MRAPs are, after all, just heavy trucks. And the capsule design produces a high center of gravity, that makes the vehicles prone to flipping over easily. They are also large vehicles, causing maneuverability problems when going through narrow streets. Most MRAPs don't have a lot of torque, being somewhat underpowered for their size. And, being wheeled vehicles, they are not very good at cross country movement (especially considering the high center of gravity.) The M-ATV was designed to deal with all of these problems. Each M-ATV costs $446,000. They are flown to Afghanistan, which, with operating and maintenance costs for one year, triples their cost. In Iraq, troops in MRAPS had casualties 65 percent less than those in other armored vehicles. Because so many of the casualties in Afghanistan are from roadside bombs, vehicles like the M-ATV can cut that in half. But only for troops in vehicles. In Afghanistan, troops operate more frequently on foot.
November 1, 2009: Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, the runner up in the recent presidential elections, has withdrawn from the runoff election. Abdullah believes that the runoff will have the same corrupt practices would take place in the runoff, as in the previous election.