Friday, March 30, 2012

State of the war in Kandahar province

Heath Druzin reports on the US/NATO mission in the Ghorak district of the Kandahar region of Afghanistan in Wake-up call: Struggles in Kandahar show Afghan troops not ready to lead Stars and Stripes 03/28/2012:

The district government was long ago chased off by insurgents, as was a contingent of the Afghan National Police. U.S. Army Lt. Col. Steven Soika, who led a recent incursion into the area, compared the villages there to the rough and tumble smuggling hub of Mos Eisley from "Star Wars." ...

While coalition troops have made gains in Kandahar province, often at great cost, and U.S. commanders are fond of pointing to a handful of "model villages" where Taliban activity has been curtailed, much of the Taliban’s spiritual homeland is still violent and largely out of the reach of the Kabul government. Complicating the effort is continuing government corruption and infiltration of the still poorly trained Afghan security forces — villagers in Ghorak said they and local insurgents got word of the U.S. incursion weeks ahead of time, likely from an Afghan soldier sympathetic to the Taliban. [my emphasis]
Druzin also reports on the Afghan government's security chief for the southern part of the country:

Soika’s Ghorak mission, an air assault in which hundreds of soldiers were inserted by Chinook helicopters in the wee hours of the morning, was heavy on symbolism. Asadullah Khalid, the controversial security chief for southern Afghanistan, hosted a meeting of elders, touting water and school projects that are often promised in this country and sometimes delivered, and the Afghan flag was briefly hoisted above a building to the tune of the Afghan national anthem.

Villagers demanded two dams to help irrigate their crops, largely opium, but Khalid, who left his former post as Kandahar governor after being accused of running a torture chamber and ordering the killing of United Nations workers, hedged, saying only that he would do his best.

"If you give us two dams, we will cooperate," a villager said. [my emphasis]
It may be that not many Americans know how to speak Dari or Pashto. But in Afghanistan, money also talks:

There’s a common joke in Afghanistan. A man asks Hamid Karzai, “How come you keep all these corrupt people in your government?” Karzai replies, “How much will you pay me to kick them out?”

Most of the villagers around Pashmul have fled heavy fighting and now live in neighboring Panjwai, crossing back into Pashmul only to tend their fields. Persuading them to come back may be more complicated than simply beating back the Taliban, though, as many villagers complain of corruption. They say the district governor takes half of every claim made for damaged farmland or irrigation ditches to pay off the $200,000 bribe he is said to have paid for his position.

Corruption in Pashmul extends to some of the security forces, too. Afghan Uniform Police routinely ransom off detainees, a frustration for Company C Commander Capt. Nate Smith, who recently saw three men picked up for triggering a roadside bomb released the next day by the local police chief. [my emphasis]
It's over. Our Side lost. Time to pull out.

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