Gen. Stanley McChrystal, 8-30-09, in the memo that laid the foundation for President Obama's surge of American forces in Afghanistan.
The people of Afghanistan represent many things in this conflict -- an audience, an actor, and a source of leverage - but above all, they are the objective. The population can also be a source of strength and intelligence and provide resistance to the insurgency. Alternatively, they can often change sides and provide tacit or real support to the insurgents. Communities make deliberate choices to resist, support, or allow insurgent influence. The reasons for these choices must be better understood.
GIRoA and ISAF have both failed to focus on this objective. The weakness of state institutions, malign actions of power-brokers, widespread corruption and abuse of power by various officials, and ISAF's own errors, have given Afghans little reason to support their government. These problems have alienated large segments of the Afghan population. They do not trust GIRoA to provide their essential needs, such as security, justice, and basic services. This crisis of confidence, coupled with a distinct lack of economic and educational opportunity, has created fertile ground for the insurgency.
...eventual success requires capable Afghan governance capabilities and security forces. While these institutions are still developing, ISAF and the international community must provide substantial assistance to Afghanistan until the Afghan people make the decision to support their government and are capable of providing for their own security.
Today's Washington Post:
U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan are developing a strategy that would tolerate some corruption in the country but target the most corrosive abuses by more tightly regulating U.S. contracting procedures, according to senior defense officials.
American officials here have not spoken publicly about countenancing potentially corrupt local power brokers. Such a stance would run somewhat against the grain of a counterinsurgency doctrine that preaches the importance of building competent governance.
But military officials have concluded that the Taliban insurgency is the most pressing threat to stability in Afghanistan and that a sweeping effort to drive out corruption would create chaos and a governance vacuum that the Taliban could exploit.
So: The Taliban is winning because the Afghanistan government is corrupt.
And: The Taliban is winning, so we can't do anything about the Afghanistan government being corrupt. In fact, we'll find ways to facilitate it!
Friends: That smells like quagmire to me.