Afghan leaders’ distrust threatens American war strategy

The success of NATO offensive in Kandahar may well depend on whether Afghans can overcome their corrosive distrust of President Hamid Karzai and his government.

Jalalabad: The success of the NATO offensive in the coming weeks in Kandahar, the Taliban heartland, may well depend on whether Afghans can overcome their corrosive distrust of President Hamid Karzai and his government, the New York Times reports.

According to the paper, Afghan elders met on Tuesday at a Marine base near Marja in Helmand Province, as part of an American plan to build mutual trust.

But both Americans and Afghans have struggled to establish a local government that can win the loyalty of the Afghan people, something that is essential to keeping the Taliban at bay, it adds.

Karzai was confronted with that issue when he met with American officials this week, including President Obama on Wednesday.

Both the leaders are seeking to repair months of badly strained relations.

The insurgency has spread to some new places, notably the north and northwest of the country, although it has diminished in a few areas. It is now made up of more than half a dozen groups with different agendas, making it that much harder to defeat, or negotiate with, even if the Americans and Afghans could agree on a strategy for doing so.

In 120 districts that the Pentagon views as critical to Afghanistan’s future stability, only a quarter of residents view the government positively. And the government has full control in fewer than a half dozen of these districts.

According to Nader Nadery of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, 18 months is simply not enough to have a stable and secure Afghan government in place.

The current strategy inevitably will allow insurgents some havens, as long as those are in sparsely populated areas where they are unlikely to have much impact.

A NATO officer said Colonel George said he hoped that if he could embolden Afghan citizens to combat corruption in the more populated river valleys and provincial towns in their areas, they would at least create a government they could support.

Diplomats who have spent years in the country working with Afghans give the Americans credit for trying, but they warn that it is easy to underestimate the complexity of Afghan tribal relationships and the profound antipathy for the government.


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