Credibility Gap in Afghanistan

I must say, it really cracked me up that this (courtesy of SWJ) was the first thing I read after finishing my write-up of the Prague PRT conference:

In exchange for their support, American commanders agreed to channel $1million in development projects directly to the tribal leaders andbypass the local Afghan government, which is widely seen as corrupt.

Contrast that with this, from Prague:

Dereck Hogan, senior governance adviser to Richard Holbrooke, describedPresident Barack Obama as being “seized by sub-national government,”and defined U.S. objectives as helping to make local government morevisible, accountable and capable. He outlined an impressive package ofprojects and funding — including a municipal governance block grantprogram — designed to “recalibrate the balance” between the centralgovernment and the provinces, making Kabul more responsive to localneeds.

I’d wondered, while listening to U.S. andmultinational officials engage in a very delicate song and danceroutine about how development and reconstruction aid has to bechanneled through the local Afghan government, exactly how that would play out on the ground, given the well-known shortcomings of Afghan local government. I guess now we know.

I’m also taken aback by the timing of this one. On the one hand, it reinforces the credibility of the “reintegration” narrative by offering an Afghan equivalent of the Anbar Awakening that turned the tide in Iraq. But on the other, it’s a live grenade in the lap of the Afghan government on the day of the London conference. And having seen in Prague how prickly and engaged on the issue the Afghan delegation — most of whom traveled on to London — was, I can’t see how this helps.

By all reports, London was a done deal a week ago. But I’d think they’d want to make sure the ink was really dry on the final declaration before announcing something like this.

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