Afghanistan: January 12, 2004


Pakistan says it will try to stop Taliban from operating from bases in Pakistan. The Pakistani army has been operating in the tribal areas along the Afghan border for over a year. Al Qaeda and Taliban members have been arrested. But the tribes have not been cooperative and the army does not want to start a major war with them. Negotiations are under way to try and buy some cooperation (using American money). Sometimes this works, sometimes the chiefs take the money and lie.

A new American commander in Afghanistan is shaking things up, taking a lot of restrictions off the Special Forces and adopting a more aggressive attitude towards the Taliban and al Qaeda. Previous commanders had been more concerned with avoiding embarrassing (in the media) incidents. 

More warlord gunmen are "disarming." Most of this is for show. You give the guy some money, he hands over his AK-47 and goes back to his village. But if he can't find work there, he will soon find another job as a gunmen. If not with a warlord, then with a drug lord. 

Afghan is not getting nearly as much money for reconstruction as Iraq (four billion dollars worth, versus over $20 billion.) There are many reasons for this, including greater corruption in Afghanistan and a much more primitive infrastructure to begin with. So you can do more with less in Afghanistan, if you can avoid having government officials and middlemen stealing the money. Getting your money's worth in Afghanistan takes a lot of personal intervention. Corruption is so ingrained in the culture that it's difficult to get a lot of popular enthusiasm for cracking down on it. 


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