Afghanistan

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Afghanistan

Post  polka23dot on Tue Dec 25, 2012 3:43 am

President Karzai admitted that corruption was a big problem in Afghanistan but said it was all the fault of foreign aid donors and business investors. Ignoring Afghanistan’s long tradition of corruption, Karzai insisted that it was up to the foreigners to stop offering bribes. The reality is that refusing to pay a bribe can escalate to death threats and even kidnapping or murder. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/afghan/articles/20121224.aspx

Afghan Army: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htatrit/articles/20121225.aspx

Prepared For The Worst In Afghanistan: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htproc/articles/20121227.aspx

Afghanistan recently announced that it would cancel the contract to buy and use 20 C-27A transports. The official reason was the inability of the Italian maintenance firm to keep the aircraft operational. The unofficial reason is the unwillingness of the Italians to pay as much in bribes as the Afghan commanders were demanding... The Western donor nations are getting fed up with the increasingly aggressive Afghan corruption. Last year, as the Afghans asked for more military aid, the donor nations instead cut contributions. The Afghans were told that the aid would be reduced from $11 billion a year to $4.1 billion a year between 2012 and 2017. That would only change if, by some miracle, the Afghans managed to get their thieving ways under control. Currently, the Afghans will go to great lengths to get around donor auditors and anti-corruption measures. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htmurph/articles/20130114.aspx

When nearly all the foreign troops are gone, by the end of next year, the drug gangs can use the money they threw at largely ineffective IED attacks to bribe the Afghan police and army, which is cheaper. There’s always been some of that going on but with all those foreign troops around, you could not always rely on the bribes to work. With the foreign troops no longer around to interfere, the bribes will make it much easier to do business. The Taliban have always presented themselves as the solution to the crime and disorder that is, actually, quite normal in Afghanistan. When the Taliban were running most of the country in the late 1990s, their idea of law and order was to declare Taliban misbehavior (taxation in the form of extortion and theft) legal and acceptable. Women were abducted (to provide “wives” for young Taliban gunmen) and people killed (for unIslamic behavior) and most Afghans saw it for what it was. With the foreign troops gone Afghanistan will revert to its usual coalition of tribal and warlord militias providing security in return for a license to steal. Afghans have long learned to cope by either joining in, getting out of the country, or just making the best of a bad situation. The Western aid workers point out that the country could be rich with law and order and education. But the forces of tradition and the culture of violence and tribalism are difficult to overcome. Anyone with education and skills finds it more practical to just get out. Those who remain keep the ancient culture of poverty and violence going. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htwin/articles/20130212.aspx

Modern Afghan history: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htwin/articles/20130227.aspx

Afghan forces are taking over more of the security operations and they are uncomfortably (to the Taliban and drug gangs) successful. Moreover, the Afghan police and soldiers play by Afghan rules. That means they also (like the Taliban and drug gangs) use kidnapping, torture, and murder against their enemies. In many cases the Afghan security forces are out for revenge because of past losses from Taliban violence. Revenge is a big deal in Afghan culture. The idea is that if you kill someone, there will be payback. That often gives people pause when they consider killing their way to an objective. But the Taliban consider themselves above all this because they are on a Mission From God. The Taliban have responded with a sharp increase in attacks on the police and soldiers, especially assassination attempts against leaders. The most effective Taliban weapon against the police is money. For the right price the police can be persuaded to back off. The police will even sell you weapons, ammunition, and information. Most police never miss an opportunity to steal. The traffic police are considered the worst. Not only will they frequently stop motorists and demand bribes but they will seize cars for the least infraction and later release the vehicle to its owner with most of its parts missing. The presence of U.S. troops or advisors can prevent overt acts of corruption by the police but the corruption is endemic in Afghanistan. It’s the great curse that keeps the country poor and dangerous. It is the main reason why Afghanistan is still the poorest and most dangerous country in Eurasia. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/afghan/articles/20130226.aspx

Many senior members of the government have gotten rich off the drug trade, either via bribes or direct involvement. Karzai is also being loyal to the Pushtun tribes he came from and the drug gangs that have made the Karzai clan rich...  Karzai is taking the long view, knowing that he cannot depend on the foreign troops in the long run. He must maintain good relationships with the other Pushtun tribes and warlords. The most powerful warlords tend to have a piece of the drug trade. The whole point of being a warlord is to have a cut of anything going on in your territory... Mosques are often used by the Taliban for storing weapons and assembling bombs...  source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/afghan/articles/20130312.aspx

The sale and exchange of women as goods is rampant in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province with as many as two women traded per day. source: http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/2013/03/31/trading-of-women-rife-in-east-afghanistan-report-claims.html

Unsettled situation has led many Afghans in Kabul and throughout the Pushtun south to make plans to flee the country after 2014 (when most foreign troops leave). The fear is that Afghan security forces will not be able to control Taliban, drug gang and bandit violence. Increased violence will halt economic growth and reduce opportunities for young Afghans (unless they want to carry a gun for some outlaw group). This, alas, is the norm in Afghanistan. It has always been an outlaw state, with the only safety in tribal areas (and only if you belonged to that tribe or were a recognized “guest”) or major cities (if you could afford to pay for protection or had nothing to steal). That changed when the Taliban were chased out after September 11, 2001. In the next few years nearly six million Afghans returned from refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran. Yet three million remain in exile, not believing that Afghanistan could ever be as safe as their exile in Pakistan and Iran. The bad old days have only been gone for 12 years and most Afghans remember. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/afghan/articles/20130407.aspx

U.S. officials are becoming alarmed at the extent that the Taliban and drug gangs control senior members of the Afghan government. These are men who are often literally partners in drug operations, receiving a share of drug profits in return for looking after the interests of the drug gangs. The most notable of these is Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan. Karzai represents his clan and tribe in this because many members of his family have long grown rich from serving drug gangs. Karzai is not shy about supporting his interests. Currently Karzai is trying to disband CIA counter-terrorism and anti-drug operations in southern Afghanistan. Two of the most effective forces the Taliban and drug gangs face are the pro-government tribal militias organized by the CIA and U.S. Army Special Forces. Both of these are under attack by Karzai, who wants to shut down CIA and Special Forces operations. Karzai uses any civilian losses suffered during operations involving the CIA and Special Forces to call for expelling the “American killers”.  Karzai never gets this exercised about the 80 percent of civilian deaths caused by the Taliban and drug gangs, so you can see where he is going with this. Karzai faces a lot of push-back from Afghans, who do not want to be ruled by a bunch of gangsters and religious fanatics. Only about ten percent of the population (mostly in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar) sees any benefit from the drug trade. A few hundred men have become quite rich from this, but about ten percent of the population has become addicted to the opium and other drugs. That is happening throughout the country, and most Afghans are hostile to the drug gangs and their Taliban allies. The Taliban has always been mainly a Pushtun thing and most of the drug gangs are Pushtun. A growing number of Pushtun tribes, or clans within tribes, have turned against the Taliban (who are seen as a bunch of gangsters and drug gang hired guns pretending to be Islamic heroes). In part this is revulsion against the drugs and chaos they bring but these tribal leaders have watched the rest of the country grow wealthy while the Taliban keep many Pushtuns in righteous poverty (by chasing away aid operations or any new business that might interfere with drug production and smuggling). It’s time for a change. But many Taliban and their drug gang allies have gotten used to that affluence and are willing to fight to resist any change. They have powerful government officials on their payroll and are not shy about using them... The only thing that keeps Karzai and his corrupt cronies from going completely off the rails is the foreign aid. Next to drug profits, that is the biggest source of income for corrupt officials. The threat of cuts to this aid does have a persuasive effect. Karzai must also pay attention to the leaders of the provinces that are not benefitting from drug profits but are suffering from drug violence and addiction. These guys are not offering bribes to Karzai but threats. Karzai has to deal with the fact that most Afghans are hostile to his alliance with the drug gangs. The main reason Karzai remains in power is because, for centuries, civil war has been avoided by an agreement that a Pushtun (like Karzai) would be “king” and share any income from foreigners or highly profitable natural resources (like the opium and heroin). Karzai does make a lot of cash gifts, using his drug money as well as stolen aid, to non-Pushtun leaders. It’s a balancing act that is constantly at risk of becoming undone... The drug gangs are having some other problems. While the acreage devoted to growing poppies (from which opium is derived) has increased for three years in a row, the Afghans are facing increasing pressure from opium production in northern Burma. These Burmese tribes had once produced most of the world’s opium but had their operations shut down by a vigorous government offensive in the 1980s. Opium production shifted to the Pushtun tribes (first in Pakistan, then across the border to Afghanistan). By the 1990s 90 percent of opium and heroin was coming from Afghanistan. As a result of the Burmese resurgence, Afghanistan now has only 75 percent of the world heroin market. The producer income per kilo (2.2 pounds) for heroin has been declining and is likely to decline more as the Burmese tribes continue to increase production. Cash is the most effective weapon the drug gangs have and it is starting to weaken. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/afghan/articles/20130420.aspx

The GDP and average income has been increasing every year since 2002 and has more than doubled on a per-person basis since the Taliban days. This has been an unprecedented period of economic growth for Afghanistan. The drug trade only benefits about ten percent of the population, mainly in those few districts where the drugs are produced and moved to the border for export. The Taliban, and some other Islamic terrorists (like the Haqqani Network) survive only because Pakistan provides them with sanctuaries and the drug gangs provide a lot of cash to hire new gunmen each year to replace the thousands who get killed. Young men still join the Taliban because of the high unemployment in many rural areas and thousands of years of tradition (once the crops are planted many men are free to go raiding). The battle is mainly between the Taliban and the Afghan security forces. Foreign troops have largely withdrawn from combat and their casualties are down over 70 percent compared to last year. Most foreign troops deaths now come from accidents, or the occasional loss while advising or training Afghans. The Afghans are not as efficient at killing the Taliban, losing about one policeman or soldier for every two Taliban killed. Foreign troops generally kill ten for every one they lose. The security forces advantage is numbers, there are over 300,000 police and soldiers, which is more than ten times the size of the Taliban force. In the areas where the Taliban are most active, the security forces only have four or five times as many men. This is because the security forces are needed in the rest of the country to deal with the endemic banditry, tribal feuds, and high level of violence that has been common in Afghanistan for centuries. Over the last few years the security forces have been more active, going out and finding the Taliban and attacking them. They do this with the help of American UAV surveillance and intelligence troops (with all their monitoring and analysis capabilities). Another important U.S. contribution is air support (smart bombs and helicopter gunships). How much of that will remain after most foreign troops leave by the end of next year is still being negotiated. Without the air support and intel assistance, Afghan police and troops will suffer more casualties. NATO is sending the Afghan Army more mortars and artillery, but these weapons are not as accurate as smart bombs nor will it always be available. The intel aid is particularly useful in finding and capturing or killing Taliban leaders. For that reason the Taliban are keen on getting senior government officials (there are a lot of them) on the drug gang payroll to not make an effort to keep any of those valuable resources in Afghanistan after 2014. The Taliban and drug gangs also use a lot of that cash to bribe police commanders, or individual cops to assist in a specific attack. Corruption remains a more serious problem in Afghanistan than violence and terrorism. Since reporting on corruption makes for dull reading, more media attention is directed at the Taliban violence (which is less than the total number of people killed by the “normal” violence in Afghan society). While NATO has been bringing in supplies and equipment over the NDN (Northern Distribution Network) for years, sending equipment out of Afghanistan via the railroad links in the north has proved to be more of a problem. That’s because the northern neighbors are trying to prevent these shipments via Russia from being used to smuggle drugs. It could also be a scam to extract some bribes out of NATO to go easy on the inspections, which are severely limiting the amount of stuff that can be shipped out via the north. This northern route is the result of NATO and the U.S. negotiating agreements with Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Russia to move all sorts of supplies and equipment over the NDN. Four years ago nearly all land movement of supplies came in via Pakistan. But that changed after Pakistan closed its border to NATO supplies in late 2011, because of a friendly fire incident on the Afghan border that left 24 Pakistani troops dead. The plan was always to completely replace Pakistan but that has happened sooner, rather than later, at least when it comes to bringing stuff in. Now Pakistan has to worry about losing some of the transport business for Afghan civilian goods. That's a major industry in Pakistan because nearly all (save air freight) cargo enters and leaves Afghanistan by truck. But now Afghanistan is building its first railroad system, connecting it with the Central Asian rail network terminal on the Uzbek border. Even with the longer distances, moving cargo would eventually be competitive coming and going via rail through Central Asia, compared to going via truck through Pakistan. The NDN makes for a fundamental change in Afghan-Pakistan relations. Now Afghanistan can look north for economic, cultural, and political alliances, rather than just with Pakistan and Iran, two countries that have not always been kind to Afghanistan. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/afghan/articles/20130503.aspx

Lower ranking police not only demand bribes, but also steal or extort cash from innocent people they threaten with arrest. The Taliban have found that the police will for the right price back off from arresting the guilty or carrying out raids. The police will even sell you weapons, ammunition, and information. Too many police never miss an opportunity to steal. The traffic police are considered the worst. Not only will they frequently stop motorists and demand bribes but they will seize cars for the least infraction and later release the vehicle to its owner with most of its parts missing. The presence of U.S. troops or advisors can prevent overt acts of corruption by the police but the corruption is endemic in Afghanistan. It’s the great curse that keeps the country poor and dangerous. It is the main reason why Afghanistan is still the poorest and most dangerous country in Eurasia. A year ago a new police anti-corruption unit was set up with punishment powers consisting of specific actions commanders could take against misbehaving subordinates (firing, reassignment). In the last year hundreds of corrupt cops have been found out and punished this way. The system was recognition that prosecuting dirty cops is often ineffective because the corrupt courts make this virtually impossible. This is a major problem for the senior commanders caught stealing millions of dollars. In effect, they cannot be punished, or get only a few months in jail and keep most of the millions they took. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htlead/articles/20130514.aspx

The government and the Taliban continue to make unsubstantiated accusations of civilian deaths because of NATO air attacks...  Last year the Taliban deployed nearly 15,000 of these bombs, which killed 312 foreign soldiers and 868 Afghan civilians (and nearly as many Afghan soldiers and police)... About 45 percent of the drug smuggling is via Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, 35 percent through Pakistan and 30 percent through Iran. Border guards will often, but not always, take a bribe and look the other way. This works most of the time, except on the Iranian border, where special units (from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard) are based and will shoot on sight both drug smugglers and civilians coming across looking for work. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/afghan/articles/20130514.aspx

While the Taliban have a great PR operation, getting all their violence and manifestos out onto the Internet, this masks the fact that the Taliban are hated by most Afghans and no one inside Afghanistan ever expects the Taliban to be more than a nuisance, another bunch of violent gunmen who can’t be reasoned with and must be killed. This the Afghan security forces are doing in an impressive fashion. So far this month the Afghan troops and police have killed nearly 500 Taliban. This is four times as many dead as the security forces suffered. This kind of loss, to an Afghan foe, is very demoralizing to the average Taliban gunmen. These guys expect to get hammered by the foreign troops, but to take this kind of beating by fellow Afghans dressed like the foreign troops is very discouraging... More and more Afghan clerics are risking assassination by openly denouncing the Taliban as un-Islamic, blasphemers, criminals and so on. Clergy are particularly angry with the Taliban because of the million or so Afghans (mostly young men) hopelessly addicted to heroin and opium. These addicts are a huge burden, and embarrassment, to their families. Since the Taliban protect the drug gangs, most people hold the Taliban responsible... Afghan businessmen complain that the growing corruption is hurting the economy because greedy warlords and officials will steal (or extort) so much that businesses cannot operate. This hurts everyone, but the eagerness to steal and ignore the side-effects is an old Afghan tradition. This is why so many of the most capable Afghans give up trying and emigrate, especially the places (like the West) where there is a lot less corruption. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/afghan/articles/20130530.aspx

Currently 47 percent of roadside bombs are made with ammonium nitrate fertilizer, with about ten percent using old shells and bombs from the 1980s and the rest potassium chlorate. Over the last few years fertilizer bombs went from nearly 80 percent of all bombs to under fifty percent and falling. The terrorists have been substituting that loss with potassium chlorate (13 percent in 2011, 23 percent in 2012 and 45 percent this year). Potassium chlorate is more expensive than ammonium nitrate but not to the point where the terrorists cannot afford it. Potassium chlorate is a common industrial chemical used for all sorts of thing, including fireworks and matches. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htweap/articles/20130530.aspx

Another security related scandal is brewing in Afghanistan, where the government has ordered the Defense Ministry to repair their little used artillery weapons and 800 armored vehicles. When this stuff is called out, it’s increasingly the case that most of vehicles and big guns are inoperable because of lack of maintenance. Over half a billion dollars have been officially spent on maintenance of this equipment over the last decade, but now it has become widely known that the artillery and armored vehicles have been rusting away with little or no maintenance and the funds officially spent on maintenance have gone missing. What’s shocking about this is that it is not unusual. Soldiers and police frequently find there’s no money to pay them on payday. Funds for maintaining vehicles (trucks, mostly) that are heavily used often disappears, along with many of the vehicles. Thus transportation is always a problem. So is getting food, fuel, uniforms and ammunition. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htmoral/articles/20130601.aspx

American troops have been encountering the dead goat scam for years. It works like this, any time a smart bomb gets dropped in an isolated location (which describes most of Afghanistan) and there is any chance of civilian casualties, the locals immediately make a fuss about seeking out who were hurt or killed. The village elders insist that outsiders stay away during this trying time. Even the foreign soldiers and Afghan police are held off (after the search for Taliban bodies, documents, and equipment is completed). Being good Moslems, villagers bury the dead before sunset of the same day. Sometimes there are no dead but there are fresh graves. The next day, the elders will claim as many civilian dead as they think they can get away with. The additional graves get a dead goat or other animal, so the proper stench permeates the mound of earth. Digging up graves is also against Islamic law, so the elders know the foreign troops have to take their word for it. The elders also know that the foreign troops, depending on nationality, will pay $1,000-$5,000 compensation per dead civilian. Not only is there a big payday, but the Taliban appreciate the bad publicity directed at the foreigners and usually show their appreciation by cutting this village or valley some slack in the future. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htmurph/articles/20130625.aspx

The major change to Afghanistan during the twelve years of American presence has been to make many more Afghans aware of how screwed up their country is. Back in 2001, most Afghans only had a dim knowledge of how different (and usually much better) life was in the rest of the world. But since 2001, Afghan attitudes have been revolutionized by an improved economy (most of Afghanistan has been at peace, by local standards, for over a decade and economic growth has given most people a lot more cash) and a flood of electronic media. First came cheap TVs and CD players on which pirated copies of Indian and Western movies could be played. For many Afghans this was the first tangible evidence that there was a very different world out there. Gossip and radio descriptions were one thing but now they could see it. For the younger generation (because of the short life span and high birth rate, most Afghans have always been young) this made staying in Afghanistan a much less viable proposition. One thing young Afghans quickly learned from all that video was that educational and economic opportunities were much greater outside Afghanistan, as were the chances of living a longer and happier life. Even the millions of refugees (from the 1980s war with the Russians) in Pakistan and Iran were reluctant to return and many refuse to (despite increasing pressure from their host countries). While many did return, they often regretted it (and often went back to the refugee camps) because the corruption and violence so common to Afghanistan were still there. Pakistan and Iran were much safer and comfortable, even though both these nations are pretty low on the global rankings of good places to live. The problem is that Afghanistan is near the bottom of those lists, along with hell holes like Somalia... The Taliban is less of a problem than generally thought. The idea of a Pushtun religious sect (which is what the Taliban is) taking over the country already failed in the 1990s (the Taliban were still fighting other factions when the Americans showed up in October 2001), and the anti-Taliban factions quickly defeated the Taliban (with American help) but the Taliban did not disappear, it fled to Pakistan, where the Pakistani government (technically American allies) quietly granted the Taliban (and al Qaeda) leaders sanctuary. What brought the Taliban back to southern Afghanistan was the heroin business. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/afghan/articles/20130629.aspx

Taking down the Taliban nationwide is not an option because the drug gangs employ most Taliban groups at least some of the time and the drug gangs have most of the senior government officials (or members of their families) on the payroll. This does not get the Taliban complete protection from the security forces because in most parts of the country the population is hostile to the drugs and those who deal in them. Ideally the Afghan leaders taking drug gang bribes would prefer that all the drugs produced in Afghanistan (especially the opium and heroin) be exported. Most of it is, but a growing fraction is diverted to the domestic market. For too many drug gangs this local trade is easy money and difficult to give up. But it has created over a million addicts and the many friends and kin of the addicts become very mad at the suppliers of this poison. This is something the drug gangs have to be careful with, because the opium trade has been ejected from other countries (first northern Burma then northwest Pakistan) in the past few decades. Make enough Afghans sufficiently angry and it could happen again in Afghanistan. Production will pop up somewhere else (it is already making a comeback in Burma) but the good times for the Afghan drug lords will be over and the families of the Afghan addicts (especially the ones who died from their addiction) will seek revenge for a long, long time. That’s the Afghan way. That’s why local opposition to the drug trade is more dangerous to the drug gangs than international pressure on the Afghan government. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/afghan/articles/20130829.aspx

Training more Afghans to maintain military gear doesn’t work because they are always better paying and less dangerous jobs for technically adept Afghans in the civilian sector. Hiring some of these guys as civilian contractors (at competitive pay) doesn’t work because the military payroll (in contrast to the payroll for a commercial firm) is much more vulnerable to corruption (a lot of troop pay disappears, as in it is stolen, before it reaches the troops). Thus, too many commanders prefer to keep spending where they can tightly control (the better to plunder) it. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htmurph/articles/20131008.aspx

Western nations want the Afghan government to destroy the opium crops and shut down the heroin trade. Many Afghans were willing to do this because more and more Afghans were getting addicted to the cheaper opium (which is scrapped off the poppy plants and most is refined into heroin). Between 5 and 10 percent of the Afghan population is addicted, mainly to opium and heroin. Up to 40 percent of those in some police units were found to have been users. Far more people are users without becoming addicts but it’s the addicts that get the most attention because they are considered a major problem for families and neighbors. Addicts will steal or kill to feed their addiction and all that addiction makes the drug gangs and their Taliban allies very unpopular. As Afghanistan became more prosperous after 2002 (because of peace and lots of foreign aid), the number of addicts in Afghanistan grew. It’s now over a million, mostly in the south and in the large cities. Most Afghan religious, tribal, and political leaders (including the Taliban) are hostile to the drugs and what it does to so many Afghans. Only about ten percent of Afghans benefit directly from the drug trade and a nasty side effect is easy access to cheap opium and ending up with many addicts in your family. The Taliban technically forbids its members to use drugs but looks the other way at many young gunmen it hires who want to get high and will do so no matter what. The Taliban has been living off the drug gangs for two decades now and justify this by promising to return to the system they imposed during the 1990s, when the gangs were forced to export nearly all their production and were severely punished if any of the opium or heroin got out to the locals. That restriction disappeared along with the Taliban in late 2001. It only worked back then because the Taliban offered security for the drug gangs in return for cash and keeping the drugs away from Afghans. Some in the current Afghan government see that as a possible option once the Westerners are gone, even though the Western donors have made it clear that the aid will disappear (and the bombs will return) if Afghanistan turns into a “narco state” (the national government is on the drug gang payroll). Many current government officials are already bribed by the drug gangs and the Afghans will keep wheeling and dealing with drug lords and foreign diplomats in order to keep the cash, and not the bombs, coming. But the aid donors can still get some action against the drug gangs. A full blown narco state leaves the drug gangs alone and taxes them. Although poppy production (measured by the area planted) increased 14 percent last year, the Afghan share of the worldwide heroin trade was only 75 percent and declining. Northern Burma is making a comeback (it was the main source until the 1980s, when production was forced out and moved to Pakistan and then Afghanistan). The Burmese competition is driving down prices and the drug gangs are trying to make up for the lost income. These Burmese tribes had once produced most of the world’s opium but had their operations shut down by a vigorous government offensive in the 1980s. Opium production shifted to the Pushtun tribes (first in Pakistan, then across the border to Afghanistan). By the 1990s 90 percent of opium and heroin was coming from Afghanistan. As a result of the Burmese resurgence, Afghanistan now has only 75 percent of the world heroin market. The producer income per kilo (2.2 pounds) for heroin has been declining and is likely to decline more as the Burmese tribes continue to increase production. Cash is the most effective weapon the drug gangs have and it is starting to weaken. But the gangs are not going away as long as they are profitable. Government attacks and Taliban demands for more money are also hurting drug gang profits. The poppy farmers notice this most. Last year they could get $163 a kilogram for opium, but this year it’s only $143 a kilo. So farmers are increasing land used for growing poppy by 36 percent for next year’s crop. More of the land for growing poppy is outside the traditional growing areas in Helmand and Kandahar provinces. That’s where over 90 percent of the poppy used to be grown but now only 72 percent is. The rest has moved to other southern provinces where there is more hostility to the drug operations. The government has been unable to sustain efforts to destroy poppy plants. This is dangerous work and 102 people were killed doing this last year and 143 so far this year. The growers offer bribes to local police to halt or sabotage the eradication efforts and that has led to a large reduction in province-level poppy eradication efforts. Meanwhile, the drug gangs are having other problems producing crops. In 2007, there were 193,000 hectares (483,000 acres) of land growing poppy. Eradication efforts reduced this to 154,000 hectares by 2012, but in the last year it has rebounded to 209,000 hectares. But more land used to grow poppy has not meant more opium. Last year 5,500 tons of opium were produced, compared to 3,700 tons in 2012. In 2007, 7,400 tons were produced. The reduction in actual opium production is the result of poor weather, plant diseases, eradication efforts, and farmers using marginal land for the poppy crops (so food could be grown on the more productive land). Threats from the drug gangs and Taliban only go so far. The farmers live or die depending on what they can grow (or buy locally) and having enough to eat is the primary goal. Income from poppy cultivation is down because the drug gangs in Afghanistan and northern Burma (and a few other areas) are producing so much heroin that the market is saturated and prices are dropping. There is no cartel organization to control worldwide heroin production like there is for oil so producers will keep turning out more opium and heroin until it becomes unprofitable. It’s a long way from that, but the reduced income produces disagreements among the various groups involved (farmers, refiners, smugglers, distributors) and more violence within the drug industry. In the few districts where poppy is grown, it is very profitable for the growers and drug gangs. A hectare of poppy produces about 3.8 kg (8.3 pounds) of heroin. Farmers earn more per hectare of poppy plants than for any other crop grown in Afghanistan. Actually, the middlemen, often tribal leaders, make far more per hectare, and the farmers often end up in debt if the poppy crop fails (for any number of reasons, including government anti-drug efforts). When sold in a Western town or city, the heroin from that hectare of Afghan poppies brings in over ten times as much money. There's lots of money for the middlemen, including the Taliban. Most of the poppies are grown in Taliban country. The Taliban tax the farmers, and other middlemen, 10-20 percent. This is Big Money, which buys lots of guns, government officials, and other useful stuff. At the consumer level heroin brings in about $70 billion a year. While only about 10 percent of that ends up in Afghanistan, that is a significant chunk of the GDP. But only about 15 percent of the drug income that stays in Afghanistan goes to the farmers who grow poppies. The rest goes to various middlemen who spread it around to ensure their survival. Two years ago the drug trade was 15 percent of GDP, but now that has fallen to under 10 percent. Part of the change was continued growth of the non-drug economy. In response to these business pressures, the drug gangs continue trying to establish poppy production closer to the borders, which makes it easier to smuggle the heroin out and makes it more difficult for the government to go after drug production. Nearly all drug production is still concentrated in a few districts of Kandahar and Helmand provinces down south. These areas have become battlegrounds and it gets harder and harder to keep production going. But the rest of Afghanistan is still quite hostile to drug production (and any more of their young men becoming addicts). Efforts to get poppy production going elsewhere tend to fail because local police and warlords respond violently to that sort of thing. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/afghan/articles/20131116.aspx

The problem with Karzai, as with most of Afghanistan, is corruption and family politics. Family and tribe are still paramount in Afghanistan. While many Afghans understand that the rest of the world (most of it) has gone beyond tribalism to the more efficient nation state, Afghanistan is still firmly stuck in the tribal phase of cultural development. The Karzai clan got lucky when the U.S. helped the anti-Taliban Northern (non-Pushtun) Alliance bring down the largely Pushtun Taliban government in late 2001. The Karzais were among the many Pushtun clans and tribes that were anti-Taliban and seemed the most capable Pushtuns (the largest minority in Afghanistan and the traditional “kings”) to back in the first presidential elections (in 2004). But the Karzais were still a typical Afghan clan and when Hamid Karzai became president he took the Karzai clan with him. Suddenly, and this did not startle Afghans, there were lots of Karzais in senior positions. Like most other politicians, the Karzais stole as much as they could. Government connections provided the Karzais with many legal, and illegal, business opportunities. Now the Karzai clan faces a crises because Hamid Karzai cannot run for president again. The constitution forbids it and the U.S. has made it clear that trying to use bribes and coercion to change the constitution will not be tolerated. So Hamid Karzai has to make plans for life after dominating the government for a decade (two terms as president). His successor will likely not be a Karzai and will want to grab all the goodies for his clan. Depending on who gets in, things could get ugly and very costly for the Karzais, even though the clan has already moved a lot of assets, and family members, overseas. Worst case would be the new government accusing the Karzais of corruption and bringing in international agencies to go after Karzai clan assets. This is unlikely because all the major Afghan clans are guilty of this and no one wants to encourage such prosecutions. But losing the presidency will be difficult and dangerous for the Karzais. It appears that Hamid Karzai is trying to force all the Americans to leave after 2014 by stalling on the required treaty. Most Afghan leaders are opposed to this and they have recently gone public with their protests. Some Afghan tribal leaders have accused Karzai of being a tool of the Taliban by always publicly criticizing the Americans when Afghan civilians are killed accidentally, while playing down Taliban atrocities. Everyone knows that most civilian deaths are at the hands of the Taliban and most of these are deliberate, not accidental. Karzai has also demanded that America halt the bombing attacks, the use of armed UAVs, and night raids. These are all tactics that hurt the Taliban and drug gangs in a big way. Despite the occasional Afghan casualties, these tactics are popular with most Afghans and some tribal leaders have openly called for more of this sort of thing. Karzai is seen as becoming bolder in his support of the Taliban and drug gangs by increasingly calling for an end to bombing and night raids. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/afghan/articles/20131204.aspx

Afghanistan's core problem is that there is no Afghanistan, merely a collection of tribes more concerned about tribal issues than anything else. Ten percent of the population, mostly living in the cities and often working with the foreigners, believes in Afghanistan the country. But beyond the city limits, it's a very different Afghanistan that is currently motivated by growing prosperity brought on by a decade relative peace.  By Afghan standards, an unprecedented amount of cash has come into the country since September 11, 2001. Between economic growth, the growing heroin sales, and foreign aid, plus lower losses from violence, it's been something of a Golden Age... The Afghan government plays up every civilian death caused foreign troops as a bargaining chip in the effort to cripple NATO anti-corruption efforts... The "Taliban" are not an organization, but a Pushtun movement that is active on both sides of the border and supported by less than ten percent of the 40 million Pushtun in the region... This Pushtun unrest has become the major source of terrorist related deaths on the planet. For most of the last decade the majority (54 percent recently) of terrorist activity has occurred in three countries; Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. What these three nations have in common is a powerful minority (Sunni Arabs in Iraq, Pushtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan). The violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan is linked by the presence of Pushtuns in both countries. But Pushtuns are a large minority (40 percent) in Afghanistan while in Pakistan Pushtuns are only 15 percent of the population. In some respects the Pushtun sponsored terrorist violence is yet another attempt by the Pushtuns to carve out their own state. These efforts have failed for thousands of years but the Pushtuns keep trying... Last year mining revenue declined 40 percent from 2012 (from $90 million to $50 million). This decline is largely because of corruption. Small, private mines increased production, as did illegal mines. Since 2010 there have been efforts to get mining operations going. While there are believed to be over a trillion dollars of minerals underground, you need a stable government before foreign firms will invest tens of billions to set up the mines and build roads and railroads to get the goodies out, and equipment in. That won't happen as long as the drug gangs dominate the south. This is actually old news, as there have been several surveys of the country since World War II and the mineral deposits were, at least among geologists, common knowledge. Some have tried to get large scale operations going and all, so far, have failed. But because of American encouragement in 2010 the Afghan government called for foreign firms to make offers. There was some interest but the mining companies soon encountered the same fate of past efforts (corruption and lack of infrastructure). source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/afghan/articles/20140110.aspx

A recently released report (which the U.S. government wanted to keep secret) showed how auditors found no part of the Afghan government able to handle foreign aid without most of the money being stolen... The corruption has serious long-term effects. For example a recent survey found half the children in the country were malnourished and suffering long-term physical and mental effects because of it. There’s plenty of food aid coming into the country but corruption (plus mismanagement) prevents it from getting to all who need it. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/afghan/articles/20140131.aspx

Although the Afghan government was persuaded to pass new laws protecting the welfare of women and children, these new laws are not being enforced. This is known not from police reports, because the police don’t report receiving many complaints of abuse against women (especially wives) or children. More of these abuse incidents are showing up in clinics run by foreign medical staffs, who do keep track of these injuries. Afghan medical workers will also record patient injuries, but will not comment on the cause (angry men). Most Afghans, when pressed, will attribute the injuries of women and children to accidents or carelessness. Some will simply shrug and look at you like you are a stupid, ignorant and troublesome foreigner. Afghans have been aware of these cultural differences regarding what forms of punishments are permissible against women and children in the West. Most Afghans tend to tolerate these brutal customs. Indeed, many Afghans found ways to make the Americans pay compensation for injuries Afghans had inflicted on women and children. This was discovered over the last decade when civilians were caught injuring their own children to gain more cash compensation for injuries they could claim were caused by NATO troops. Sometimes the scam was obvious to medical professionals. The burns found on children were often the result of a common form of punishment in rural Afghanistan; putting the hand of an unruly child in boiling water. Foreign medical teams often encounter this kind of injury, and other types of savage punishments, and sometimes the parents casually admitted the cause. It was, after all, part of the culture. Wounds from bombs, including burns, are distinctive and it took a while for the Afghans to catch onto that. But for a while many parents did get compensation for injuries they, not NATO bombs, had inflicted on their children. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htmurph/articles/20140218.aspx

Afghanistan is headed for another civil war: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/afghan/articles/20140219.aspx

The extent of the corruption in Afghanistan was recently demonstrated when parliament refused to pass anti-money laundering laws demanded by the international banking system. As a result Afghanistan risks being cut off from access to the international banking system by the end of June. Apparently so many members of parliament have been stealing and shipping cash offshore that they fear the new laws would make it too easy for them to be identified by foreign bank fraud investigators and prosecuted (especially outside Afghanistan). Losing access to the international banking system would cripple the Afghan economy and cut off millions of Afghans from cash they receive from family overseas. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/afghan/articles/20140527.aspx

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Re: Afghanistan

Post  polka23dot on Thu Aug 14, 2014 8:04 pm

As expected the Afghans are having a hard time maintaining the aircraft and vehicles they have received, mainly from the U.S., for their security forces. The problem is a growing number of these vehicles and aircraft are inoperable because of maintenance issues. Afghan officers complain that they cannot find or train enough Afghans to keep this stuff in running condition. Foreigners observe that corruption, low education levels, and stiff competition for skilled Afghans has meant that the Afghan military is unable to adequately maintain and repair the aircraft and vehicles they have... The corruption means that needed spare parts never arrive because the money for their purchase was stolen. Or if the parts are on hand, they often disappear into the black market... This maintenance crises is causing some serious problems with the mobility of the Afghan ground forces. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htlog/articles/20140813.aspx

Afghanistan is losing its dominant share of the world heroin trade. In 2011 year, Burma went from producing five percent of the world's heroin, to 12 percent and that is now nearly 20 percent. Afghanistan is down to under 70 percent... As long as illegal drug production thrives in Afghanistan, so will the Taliban. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htwin/articles/20140909.aspx

Afghanistan: There are actually dozens of separate wars going... It has become public that Afghanistan senior police and army commanders are increasingly ordering their men not to take prisoners. This is a desperate move made because the corruption in Afghanistan, especially in the courts and prisons, makes it too easy for a captured Islamic terrorist or drug gang member to get free with a few well-placed bribes. This has led to a growing number of well known (at least in the police and the army) Taliban killers getting captured, bribing their way free and going on to kill more cops and soldiers. A current example of this can be seen in the north (Kunduz province) where local Islamic terrorist leader Qari Belali, who has been active since the 1990s and has managed to bribe his way out jail twice in the last decade. The “no-prisoners” policy was as much to maintain morale in the security forces as it was to get around the corrupt judicial system. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/afghan/articles/20140905.aspx

documentary about the ineptitude, drug abuse, sexual misconduct, and corruption of the Afghan security forces: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ja5Q75hf6QI

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Re: Afghanistan

Post  polka23dot on Thu Oct 16, 2014 5:52 am

The U.S. State Department recently concluded a four year investigation of one of its contractors in Afghanistan. The subject was paying bribes to Pakistani officials to get people and equipment from the port of Karachi and into landlocked Afghanistan. The investigation concluded without recommending the contractor be punished. That’s because such bribes are a way of life in Pakistan and any foreign government operating there knows that you cannot get anything done without paying bribes. The American investigation did not find any fraud on the part of the American contractor (like their employees stealing bribe money) thus there was no crime according to U.S. law. Many Americans think that U.S. law forbids the paying of bribes overseas. In fact, the law does not do this in all instances. When you have a situation, as in Pakistan, where you simply cannot get things done without paying bribes, then that is, according to American law, legal. The U.S. government prefers that this sort of thing be done discreetly and without attracting investigations like this... The Pushtun tribes on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border, in cooperation with government officials on both sides of the border, demand additional payments from trucking companies if they want their trucks to get across the border and into Afghanistan intact... The truck security payments (often several thousand dollars or more per truck per trip) are a major source of cash for the border tribes. It's something worth fighting, and dying, for. At the height of the trucking activity (2006-2010), the cost of getting a truckload (usually just a large cargo container) from Karachi to Kabul went from a thousand dollars to nearly $3,000. During that period over 5,000 trucks were destroyed and at least 120 drivers killed anyway.  source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htmurph/articles/20141015.aspx

American military advisers believe that Afghan security forces will suffer about 9,000 casualties (dead, wounded, missing) in 2014... The new government is cracking down on corruption, in sharp contrast to the previous Karzai administration. Old corruption investigations are being reopened. Karzai often went through the motions of investigating major scandals where foreign aid was stolen. This was largely because the donor nations insisted. These investigations were superficial and soon closed, especially when members of the Karzai clan were usually involved. The first cases reopened are some of the most notorious ones, like the looting of the Kabul Bank in 2010. In 2013 the Afghan MEC (Monitoring and Evaluation Committee), a foreign funded anti-corruption group, openly protested the light sentences and superficial prosecution of those responsible for stealing nearly a billion dollars (most of it aid money) from the Kabul Bank. This sort of public criticism was tolerated by the Karzais because it meant little and kept the foreigners happy. But now members of the Karzai clan involved with these past corruption cases are being prosecuted once more. Some are fleeing the country.  They are being joined in exile by a lot of other prominent and notoriously corrupt officials and businessmen. Of particular interest to NATO is long sought investigation of corruption in the security forces. Political influence in the selection of officers, especially senior ones, was always a sore point with NATO trainers and advisers. Another complaint was the theft of money for essentials (like pay and benefits for the troops as well as equipment and supplies.) Bad officers meant poor performance in combat and lower morale. That led to more desertions and it was easier for the Taliban and criminals to bribe soldiers and police. A lot of officers, especially generals, are expected to lose their jobs now.  The new government is also rescinding many restrictions placed on military operations. Many of these seemed to benefit the Taliban and it was widely believed that many members of the Karzai government were bribed by the Taliban and drug gangs. The anti-corruption effort is part of a larger plan to increase economic growth and reduce the extreme poverty that has long been so common in Afghanistan. Corruption has always been an obstacle to economic growth. Everyone knew it but when the Karzais were in charge not much was done about it. Now the Karzai clan (still based in Kandahar) faces a crises because Hamid Karzai could not run for president again and the election to replace him succeeded in electing someone who was not under the control of the Karzais. So far the Karzais have not tried to muster enough support to change the constitution or hang on by force. The U.S. has made it clear that trying to use bribes and coercion to change the constitution will not be tolerated. Hamid Karzai and his clansmen have to cope with life after dominating the government for a decade (two terms as president). His successor is prosecuting Karzais for corruption that went on for a decade. Things could get ugly and very costly for the Karzais, even though the clan has already moved a lot of assets, and family members, overseas. Worst case would be the new government accusing the Karzais of corruption and bringing in international agencies to go after Karzai clan assets wherever they are. This is unlikely but not impossible. All the major Afghan clans are guilty of this sort of corruption and no one wants to encourage such prosecutions. But losing the presidency will be difficult and dangerous for the Karzais and his political and criminal allies. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/afghan/articles/20141017.aspx

New Afghan president will not tolerate corruption: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G83YxygLGj0

The drug gangs prefer to use money to get their way and make payments to thousands of military and police commanders as well as tribal leaders and warlords. The bribes don’t always work. A growing number of politicians and commanders won’t take bribes. Tribal leaders have found that the bad behavior of Taliban gunmen in their villages makes taking a bribe to ignore the Taliban presence unworkable... A recent nationwide opinion poll found 77 percent of Afghans support the presence of American troops in Afghanistan and 46 percent (mainly in areas with a heavy Taliban presence) want more American military (29 percent want fewer). Most Afghans blame the Taliban and other Islamic terrorists for all the violence while 12 percent blame the presence of foreign troops. Old prejudices die hard in Afghanistan... Even without air support Afghan army and special police units have been very effective against the Taliban, often killing ten or more of the enemy for each of their own dead. These special operations units make up about ten percent of the 350,000 soldiers and police in the security forces. These men took years to recruit, train and turn into experienced operators. Most of the other police and army units can defend themselves and at least a third of army units can regularly defeat the Taliban on the ground. Most soldiers and police can be depended on to defend a checkpoint, base or compound. But that does not replace the enormous American intelligence collecting and analysis capability which, along with all that airpower (for moving troops as well as blowing things up) which made the foreign troops so incredibly deadly against the Taliban. Many Afghan commanders warned that this support would be sorely missed by Afghans and now that all these foreign forces are gone, a lot more Afghans are agreeing. There are growing anti-corruption efforts within the security forces. More commanders, including senior ones, are no longer tolerant (or involved in) the more common corrupt practices. This includes the ancient “paper soldiers” scam where you report more soldiers on duty than you actually have and pocket the money sent to pay and maintain these non-existent troops. Another popular angle is simply stealing equipment or money to buy supplies for your troops. More soldiers, and especially police (who are most often the victims) are going public with the detailed reports of the damage this theft does. There is often no money for essentials, like fuel or spare parts for vehicles. Radios and supporters “disappear” as commanders sell them and report them as stolen or damaged and disposed of. Subordinates reporting the details of these incidents is putting more heat on commanders to do right by their fighting men and the people they try to protect. Despite all this, most Afghans are actually optimistic. While most Americans and the mass media worldwide have declared the 13 year U.S./NATO effort in Afghanistan a failure, most Afghans disagree. Although over 100,000 died during those 13 years nearly half the deaths in the 13 year war were Taliban, other Islamic terrorists and their drug gang allies. Another 30 percent of the dead were civilians, usually the targets of Taliban or gang intimidation.  The Afghan security forces (mostly the police, plus the army) suffered 18 percent of the deaths. A little over three percent of the deaths were foreign troops, who gave the government forces an edge in firepower, support, intel and tactical leadership.  The death toll since 2001 is a lot less than the millions who died during the decade of fighting the Russians and less than suffered during the 1990s when Afghans fought each other. Most Afghans are well aware that in many way their lives are much better since the Americans arrived. GDP has grown continuously since 2001 with average family income increasing noticeably each year. In early 2001 only a million children were in school, all of them boys. Now there are eight million in school, and 40 percent are girls. Back then there were only 10,000 phones in the country, all very expensive land lines in cities. Now there are 17 million inexpensive cell phones with access even in remote rural areas. Back then less than ten percent of the population had access to any health care, now 85 percent do and life expectancy has risen from 47 years (the lowest in Eurasia) to 62 (leaving Bangladesh to occupy last place in Eurasia). This is apparently the highest life expectancy has ever been in Afghanistan and the UN noted it was the highest one decade increase ever recorded. Afghans have noticed this even if the rest of the world has not. Opinion polls show 60 percent of Afghans believe the country is going in the right direction and 90 percent respect the army (and 70 percent the police). Only ten percent respect the Taliban, despite foreign media predicting that the Taliban will soon regain control of the country. Afghans scoff at that, if only because most would rather die fighting rather than submit to Taliban rule again. Foreigners tend to forget that angle, but the Afghans don’t. While many Afghans are saving to pay a smuggler to get them to the West (where they can make a lot more money and live even longer) most are staying and see better prospects than have existed for decades... Although Afghanistan and Pakistan have agreed to cooperate on going after Islamic terrorists there are limits to that cooperation that are causing growing anger in Afghanistan. The problem here is continued Pakistani insistence that Indian aid projects to Afghanistan are actually just a cover to Indian terror attacks inside Pakistan. For a long time Pakistan insisted that all terrorist attacks inside Pakistan were actually the work of the Indians. That fantasy eventually became unsustainable because the Pakistani Islamic terrorists refused to play along and were very convincing in taking credit for all the Islamic terrorist mayhem. Yet senior Pakistani officials still claim that India is using Afghanistan as a base for operations against Pakistan. There has never been any proof, just decades of accusations. The Afghans are well aware of this and find the continued Pakistani accusations annoying. Meanwhile Afghanistan hosts nearly 400 Indian aid projects. Most of them are quite small but over thirty of them quite large. The Afghans appreciate the help and especially Indian efforts to work with Iran to create a truck route via the Iran border to a new port being built on the Iranian coast. All this is to serve traffic to and from land-locked Central Asia. The Pakistanis don’t like this project at all as it denies them some major leverage over Afghanistan (the truck route to the Pakistani port of Karachi). In 2013 the Afghans angered the Pakistanis even more by asking for Indian troops to work in Afghanistan (as trainers and to provide security for Indian aid projects) and for direct military aid (Afghanistan wants artillery, transport aircraft, military engineering equipment and trucks). India has been providing aid and Indian personnel (including civilian security personnel) since 2002. India was receptive to increasing this aid, despite being primarily Hindu, a religion particularly reviled by Moslems. The Afghans are not as upset at this as the Pakistanis are but the new president of Afghanistan rescinded the request, for now, to placate Pakistan. India and Afghanistan actually have a long history. Afghanistan may appear to be at the corner of no and where, but it is actually astride the primary invasion route from Central Asia to India (including Pakistan which is still, historically and culturally, part of India). The Afghan tribes have long since learned to step aside as the foreign invaders moved through. Actually, many Afghans would join the invaders, so much so that these invasions, and the loot and stories the survivors brought back, have become a major part of the Afghan collective memory. Some local names recall all that. For example the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan mean, literally, “slaughter Hindus.” Most Westerners have not got a clue about this cultural tradition, and how much it influences the behavior of most Afghans. While Pakistani Islamic conservatives still yearn to conquer and convert Hindu India, the Afghans are rather more pragmatic and realistic. Since Pakistan has been a growing threat to Afghanistan since India was partitioned over the last 60 years (into India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) the Afghans have sought local allies. The Afghans see this as one of those “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” situations and the Indians seem to agree so far. So for the moment the Afghans will not accept military aid from India, but will cooperate to assure the security of the many Indian aid projects in Afghanistan, which the Afghans know Pakistan is trying to attack via Islamic terrorists Pakistan controls inside Afghanistan. This sort of thing is very unpopular inside Afghanistan, where Pakistan is considered an implacable enemy who cannot be trusted. Meanwhile the official Afghan line is that the Indian military aid deal was cancelled because the Indians were taking too long to actually deliver anything. In truth the Afghans became aware of the shoddy performance of Indian made weapons and that had something to do with cancelling the military aid. Indian trainers and security personnel are still welcome because the Afghans have noted that in the several wars India and Pakistan have fought since the 1940s, the Indians always win. Meanwhile Iran continues to allow about half a million Afghan refugees to stay in Iran and this is openly done as a friendly gesture to Afghanistan. Other such gestures include more and more trade with and investment in Afghanistan. Then, of course, there is the deal (involving India and China) to build that new port near the Pakistani border and a road north to the Afghan border to give Afghanistan another route to the sea. Iran may not like Afghanistan’s chummy relationship with the United States, but does want to maintain millennia old economic and cultural relations with their eastern neighbor. In the past eastern Afghanistan was often part of the Iranian (or “Persian”) empire but that is no longer an issue with the Iranians... The problem with democracy in Afghanistan is that, like many pre-industrial countries there is not a tradition of compromise on a national scale. Agreeing on having a “king” to deal with foreigners is what created modern Afghanistan two centuries ago, but agreement on much else at the national level didn’t happen often and only after years of haggling  and perhaps some major combat as well. Since 2005 (when the new parliament was first elected) there has also been violence within parliament itself with some of the debates turning into brawls. This is nothing new. In the early 19th century such behavior was common in the American Congress and more modern democracies, like those post World War II ones in East Asia (Taiwan and South Korea) have had problems with legislators getting physical. It’s a learning process and everyone has to go through the stages. One of the easiest ways to start a brawl in the Afghan legislature is to try and shut down a corrupt scam that benefits several members of parliament. These guys are politicians and they don’t like being called out for what they really are (thieves and liars), especially if the accuser is presenting accurate details. But a growing number of senior Afghan leaders are accepting the fact that the pervasive corruption in Afghanistan is a major reason why the country is backwards (economically, politically and in so many other ways). But for many Afghan politicians corruption is still the traditional way of getting rich and not to be messed with. That attitude no longer works as well as it used to because the foreign donors are threatening to withhold aid and actually doing so if the corruption is found to be crippling what the foreign donors are trying to do. Corrupt officials have long sought to keep the foreign donors ignorant about what is actually happening with the money, but even that is not working anymore as donors come up with ways to get around these deceptions. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/afghan/articles/20150204.aspx

Afghanistan has been unable to sustain efforts to destroy poppy plants... The endemic corruption is destroying the new (since 2002) road network. Money for maintenance is stolen. The U.S. provided $3 billion to build 2,600 kilometers of roads but now most are becoming unusable because of poor, or no, maintenance. The government admits that it is aware that about $100 million a year should be spent on road maintenance but at most a quarter of that is allocated and most of that is stolen or wasted. For example, a lot of the reconstruction work, especially road-building, uses corrupt, and stupid, practices that are considered traditional by the locals. The most common one is to give all the contracts on a job to whoever offered the biggest bribe, or simply to someone in your family, who will pay you back later on. The guy who got the contract will not provide further bribes to local tribal leaders in the area where the road, or structures, are being built. This offends the locals, who are then more likely to cooperate with the Taliban to attack the interlopers... Despite over a decade of building schools (currently nine million Afghans are in school) the illiteracy rate is still 60 percent. Since 2002 over six million Afghans have received at least a basic education and 60 percent of those have been female, despite vigorous Taliban efforts to block that... In the rural areas 90 percent of women are still illiterate. source: https://www.strategypage.com/qnd/afghan/articles/20161123.aspx

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