A Presidential election is scheduled in Afghanistan for August 20. The country is currently without one since Karzai's term expired in May. We are engaged in war with the Taliban who are trying to regain power. Most of what we've heard from Karzai of late is complaints about how many civilians we've been killing in fighting a battle he cannot or will not. I think most people familiar with the situation would agree Afghanistan needs new leadership.
I watched Fareed Zakarias interview all the candidates over the past several months and find the challengers worthy of a good look. Especially Ashraf Ghani who, again, articulated his vision along with his past accomplishments in today's Wall Street Journal.
In light of the fact he has had success in reshaping various aspects of Afghan society through his positions as a government official, I wonder if it may be prudent to await the election results before moving forward with our new tactic for eliminating the opium trade. According to an article by the Washington Post's Karen DeYoung, we, along with the British, plan on spending millions over the next two months trying to persuade farmers not to plant poppies.
I think the plan is flawed from the get go. The Taliban provides the seed for the farmers and the money is good.They get loans, if needed, from the drug traffickers who buy their harvests and repay them at that time. Our intention is to get them to buy wheat seeds and fruit saplings by selling them cheap and offering low interest credit. On top of that they want to entice the farm workers to shift their labor to building roads and irrigation ditches.
While the intent is noble I don't see it being accomplished within a couple of months. We're dealing with a practice that has been their livelihood for generations. They know and are comfortable with the players. It is so much a part of their culture, any change would most likely take years to incorporate.
That being said, Mr. Ghani has similar goals for his people. I'm wondering if such effort would be better coming from their own government rather than the Americans and the British?
We can't do it all. I have no problem with our forces, since they are already in country, trying to keep the Taliban and the drug traffickers at bay while Afghan security forces are being trained, but this additional effort is big brotherism much like we tried and failed at in Iraq. Resentment built rather than being quelled.
I'm just skeptical that we can win the hearts and minds of the people while waging a war no matter how many seeds and sapling we offer up at bargain basement prices. Some efforts are more easily embraced when they come from their own government rather than outsiders.
August 20 isn't that far off. Might Karzai lose? If he does there is a chance of success. If he wins all bets are off for he is little more than "mayor" of Kabul running one of the world's most corrupt and failed regimes. The end result will be another quagmire from which the US will have difficulty extracting itself and too many more of our military will die.
Meanwhile our own domestic problems are bogged down in a quagmire of their own. What is our priority?