McChrystal on the Afghan Election and the Karzai Government

Monday, September 21, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Afghanistan strategy review is absolutely scathing in its assessment of the Afghan government. It raises the effect of its corruption and incompetence to a strategic threat on par with the insurgency, and calls it a “crisis of popular confidence”:

… that springs from the weakness of [Afghan government] institutions, the unpunished abuse of power by corrupt officials and power-brokers, a widespread sense of political disenfranchisement, and a longstanding lack of economic opportunity. ISAF errors have further compounded the problem. These factors generate recruits for the insurgent groups, elevate local conflicts and power-broker disputes to a national level, degrade the people’s security and quality-of-life, and undermine international will. … Insufficiently addressing [this threat] will result in failure.

That should set alarm bells ringing. Is a government that was willing to return itself to power by stealing an election really willing to enact the kind of good-government reforms that would be necessary to mitigate this threat?

McChrystal’s review, completed a few days after the elections last month, calls them “far from perfect” and almost as an afterthought notes that “the credibility of the election results remains an open question.” Yet McChrystal says that the goal in Afghanistan for Afghan governance is not “perfection.” Instead, it’s “an improvement in governance that addresses the worst of today’s high level abuse of power, low-level corruption, and bureaucratic incapacity will suffice.”

Will that be enough? If the point is to inspire confidence among Afghans, would that be achieved by merely addressing “the worst of today’s high level abuse of power”? If that’s the most this strategy could realistically deliver, that’s a reason to reassess the strategy. It’s incoherent to say that governmental incapacity and corruption is as dangerous as the insurgency, but the United States and its allies don’t actually have to yield that much to tamp down that danger.

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Pingback posted September 21, 2009 @ 7:44 pm

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by James Joyner and WashIndependent. WashIndependent said: McChrystal On The Afghan Election And The Karzai Government [...]

Comment posted September 21, 2009 @ 7:57 pm

I am a staunch supporter of our military and the iraq engagement. I want us to get the hell out of there because Obama and the democrats do not have a clue what they are doing and will only screw it up.

When you have a leader as incompetent as this one, there is no need to stay.

Comment posted September 21, 2009 @ 8:04 pm

It sounds like the best they are hoping to accomplish is the maintenance of a satrapy.

Comment posted September 21, 2009 @ 9:14 pm

How about this: ISAF and the Taliban are in agreement that the government of Afghanistan is our biggest barrier to success. That should give us all deep pause…

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Pingback posted September 22, 2009 @ 5:29 pm

[...] — The McChrystal plans Afghan government problem. [...]

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Pingback posted September 22, 2009 @ 8:04 pm

[...] Spencer Ackerman reads through the McCrystal leak and pulls out a great selection on who we are supporting and the problem COIN supporters will have in actually implementing their doctrine: [...]

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Pingback posted September 23, 2009 @ 6:01 am

[...] Excerpt from “McChrystal on the Afghan Election and the Karzai Government“, Spencer Ackerman, Washington Independent, 21 September 2009: Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s [...]

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