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Afghanistan strategy in "fingers crossed" mode

Posted by on October 1st, 2010

From our partners at

By Steve Hynd

Michael Cohen, in an excellent post today, notes that Petraeus and others are still pointing to the "success" of Iraq as something they hope to duplicate in Afghanistan – when violent incidents in the former are trending upwards and it has just become the record holder for the longest gap between election and government. It's dumb, magical thinking – especially when a recent article on Petraeus revealed:

Petraeus said it was too soon to guess how much progress would be made on security, or governance, over the next year.

A member of Petraeus' staff explained the thinking — that they were "hunkered down," in "fingers-crossed" mode, because the whole plan's success depends on the Afghan government doing what now seems unthinkable: rooting out graft in a country where every level of government subsists on a latticework of bribes leveraged against impoverished Afghans. And the decision to do that is in the hands of an Afghan president whose own family is accused of benefiting from corruption.

The staffer spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the strategy debates within headquarters.

 Michael comments:

Ignoring the fact that there is absolutely no reason to believe that the Afghan government will do the unthinkable and be less corrupt, less incompetent and less ineffectual than it has been for the past nine years . . . how have we gotten to a point where THIS is our strategy: crossing our fingers and hoping that the Karzai government cleans up its act. And what if this doesn't happen; what if the Karzai government continues to turn a blind eye toward the corrupt practices in its midst? What then?

But as Joshua Foust pointed out not too long ago, Karzai doesn't really have much of an option but to continue using graft and corruption as his balancing pole to stay atop the tightwire of Afghan power struggles – and any other candidate for the job of Afghan leader would have to do the same thing!

Legitimacy, legitimacy, legitamacy — and when you add in the many myths pushed by the COINdinistas as they vainly try to get what sounds good on paper to trun into reality on the ground, then we really have got a strategy of crossing fingers and hoping for the very unlikely.

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