Afghanistan: October 17, 2003


The new army now contains 6,000 trained troops, with new recruits entering the training program each month. Methodically building a professional military means leaving warlords in control of most of the country, but there is no alternative. Most Afghans would not accept foreign troops imposing peace, especially in the rural areas. Foreign troops can patrol and pacify the cities, but as American soldiers have discovered, the countryside is full of little armies and groups intolerant of outsiders, or interference in their illegal schemes (smuggling and drugs). Any government of Afghanistan must also deal with the problem of corruption and lack of training. Relatively few Afghans know how to run a large organization, like a department of the national government. Anyone getting a job like that is immediately under immense social pressure from family and tribe to take care of "his people" by giving out jobs and contracts. If the jobs don't get done and the contracts are not fulfilled, you cannot crack down on kinfolk. This ancient scenario is being played out as usual, and accounts for the regular replacement of senior government officials. President Karzai is determined to find government officials who have the skills, and are clean (resistant to corrupt practices). Some Afghans consider this impossible, but Karzai knows that it's the only chance for Afghanistan to move from the 14th to the 21st century.

In the past two months, some 300 people have been killed in battles between Taliban bands and police, troops and pro-government militias. The Taliban have lost most of the time, except in those cases where they ambushed government forces or civilians and then promptly fled. 


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