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Kandahar Underscores Petraeus' Challenge

Kandahar street scene

An Afghan sheep herder on a Kandahar street as seen through the window of a U.S. Army armored vehicle. Chris Hondros/Getty Images Europe hide caption

itoggle caption Chris Hondros/Getty Images Europe

Just a couple of stories about the situation in Kandahar suggest how difficult a task Gen. David Petraeus has ahead of him in trying to reverse the situation in Afghanistan.

In a story for All Things Considered on Thursday, NPR's Tom Bowman reported that one of the most intractable problems facing the U.S. and Afghan officials is in finding enough educated Afghans to join the government.

One problem, Tom reports, is that Afghans who would serve in government face the near constant threat of physical harm from the Taliban.

Another, he says, is that Afghans qualified to work for their government are drawn away by the larger salaries they can make working for international aid organizations. Or, as it turns our, the U.S. military.

Tom delivers a stunning bit of information: an Afghan working as a translator for the U.S. military can make as much as $200,000 a year.

Given that, why would an Afghan want to make far less working for the government with risks as great or greater.

Another story that sets out the challenges facing Petraeus who was just named to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the U.S.'s top military commander in Afghanistan is the problem of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's half brother Ahmad Wali Karzai who is alleged to be a font of corruption.

From Stars and Stripes:

In Kandahar, that problem is especially acute because the local government is, in essence, the family and tribe of President Hamid Karzai, led by his half-brother.

“The politics of Kandahar clearly reveal that some of President Karzai’s closest allies, including his half-brother Ahmad Wali Karzai, are more interested in manipulating the coalition for their own interests than in genuine partnership,” concluded a recent analysis of the city by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. “Wali Karzai’s behavior and waning popularity among local populations promote instability and provide space for the Taliban to exist.”

If there are effective solutions to the difficulty of getting Afghans to serve in the Kandahar government or easing Karzai's brother out of the picture, they're not readily apparent.

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