On the negative side,
a) the much advertised Marja campaign was a failure. Counterinsurgency theory calls for a ratio of troops to inhabitants of about 1:50; in the Marja campaign, the ratio rose to 1:2 and the “government in a box” proved undeliverable. Using classic guerrilla tactics, the insurgents put up a partial resistance and then faded away, but returned when they had the opportunity and infiltrated the community, largely and quickly re-establishing their former position.
b) Afghan perception of these events did not initiate but did accentuate a hedging of bets by the Afghan governing elite on whom accomplishment of the basic objectives in Afghanistan must depend. Many and perhaps most of the governing elite have been or are engaged in preparing their safe havens abroad, moving families, acquiring dual citizenship and shipping enormous (relative to Afghan resources and individual wealth) amounts of money to foreign banks. A repetition of the failure of Marja in the Kandahar campaign would certainly accentuate the drift among the key members of the ruling elite.
c) Meanwhile, President Karzai, before we know the results of the Kandahar campaign, and whether or not he is personally involved in this preparedness to “jump ship,” has been trying to find a means prospectively to protect his position and that of his regime by some form of accommodation with the Taliban.
d) Corruption runs from the very top of the Afghan regime to the very bottom of the society. Almost nothing happens without a bribe. The UN estimated earlier this year that as much as a quarter of the gross domestic product of the country -- and nearly half of the salary of an ordinary citizen – is paid out in bribes or protection money. Whether or not these figures are accurate, they are based on interviews with 7,600 Afghans in 12 provincial capitals. So politically they are significant. What is perhaps even more significant is that even Afghans associated with America contrast government and power elite corruption with that in areas under Taliban control where, they believe, there is no corruption.
e) There is no security of property. Even government property is routinely seized by warlords and for the average citizen to own property is to endanger himself and his family. The constitution and the existing laws are not operative. Consequently, the average citizen at best seeks to avoid government and at worst fears or hates it.
f) There is a pervasive sense of despair. In part, but only in part, this is a result of a crippling level of unemployment (in some areas up to 50%) and poverty. Afghans have lived with poverty and disruption of their lives for time beyond the experience of those living today. But today, the statistics are truly astonishing to us and dispiriting to them. They have suffered through virtually continuous war for 30 years. Many are wounded or sick, with some even on the brink of starvation. More than one in three subsists on the equivalent of less than 45 cents a day, almost one in two lives below the locally designated poverty line and more than one in two preschool children is stunted because of malnutrition. They are the lucky ones; one in ﬁve dies before the age of 5.
Obviously, the Afghans need help, so Americans think they should welcome our efforts to aid them. But this is only sporadically and/or regionally true. It is, obviously more true in areas where fewer Pashtuns live and where the Taliban is least operative. In the south, it is more common. There, in the aftermath of its campaign, USAID offered to employ virtually the entire adult population of Marja, some 10,000 people. Unquestionably such efforts do persuade some of the people for some of the time. But not all or permanently. In Marja, only 1,200 people signed up for the jobs AID offered.
g) The attitude toward America and Americans is an aspect of the national Afghan attitude toward foreigners. Nation-wide, independent observers have found that a large part of the Afghan population does not want Americans, even aid workers providing beneficial services, here. There is considerable if impressionistic evidence that “civic action,” even when American offered benefits are accepted by Afghans, is not creating an environment favorable to improving Afghan- American relations. It appears to be largely opportunistic. This also was the experience of the Russians who engaged in a large scale and comparable civic action program during their decade of occupation. Moreover, even those who want to participate in American projects are fairly easily dissuaded by the insurgents.