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November 17, 2009

Thank God for Somalia!
Posted by Michael Cohen

Courtesy of Andrew I see that Afghanistan just beat out Somalia as the most corrupt country in the world (by the way, this is two points worse than last year). This sort of reminds me of the old joke about Alabama's state motto - "Thank God for Mississippi."

But let's not cower in fear at the notion that a counter-insurgency with a government that is the second most corrupt in the world is a fool's errand - Hamid Karzai is about to clean up his act:

Afghan officials launched a new anti-corruption unit and major crime fighting force Monday amid stiff international pressure to clean up the government following a fraud-tainted presidential election.

The Afghan government has been dogged by corruption for years and this is the third formal launch of a unit promising to rein in rampant graft and bribery. But Afghan government officials told reporters this attempt has a better chance because of a real desire to succeed and strong international backing.

But this time does appear to be different as the Obama Administration is making clear that "they will consider the Afghan government's commitment to reform in deciding how many more troops to send to fight the resurgent Taliban." But this isn't really true since the US is on the verge of agreeing to send more troops to Afghanistan so in fact we're not really waiting for genuine progress.

Shouldn't the cart come before the horse here? Shouldn't we wait for the Afghan government to get serious about dealing with corruption as well as a host of other issues before agreeing to send a single additional soldier? I mean, it's not as if 60,000 US troops can't effectively hold off the Taliban in the meantime - and it's not as if the US will even have an additional 30-40,000 troops on the ground any time soon to make much of a difference in the counter-insurgency fight.

I've said it before and I'll say it again; if we really want to force the Karzai regime to change - or if we want to figure out whether they even have the capacity to clean up their act - we need to use troop levels as the ultimate lever. Of course, we could just give up dreams of waging population centric counter-insurgency in Afghanistan . . . But to pretend that the Karzai regime is really serious about taking the steps they've avoided taking for the past 8 years is no way to run a war.

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