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Afghanistan's salvation lies in governance

Long-term peace will not come from American billions raining down on country

Gulf News

The fragility of the relationship between the Afghanistan government and its western allies has been brutally exposed by the angry Afghan reaction to a US financial watchdog's very critical report about where American money has gone in Afghanistan. The American Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, Sigar, was blunt when he reported a "poisonous atmosphere" between the Americans and Afghans after President Hamid Karzai had banned US government advisers from the Afghan Central Bank. For its part, this week the Afghan Finance Ministry said that future audits need to be more balanced.

It is important to remember that the sums the US is pouring into Afghanistan are huge. Washington has been bitterly criticised for its confused priorities as it spends $125 billion annually on Afghanistan, compared to a mere $5-10 billion a year on Pakistan. This vast amount of money would be hard to spend effectively in a well-governed country. This is all the more true in Afghanistan where the Karzai government is notorious for its failure to prioritise its duties and faces continuous allegations of corruption.

The tragic failure of governance in Afghanistan was in the headlines again yesterday when the mayor of Kandahar was killed by a suicide bomber. His brutal death was apparently triggered by his effective drive against corruption, embezzlement and the grabbing of government land by powerful men and tribes.

The murder was an example of how opposition forces are able to pick off the social leaders who make a difference, and frighten would-be reformers into frustrated silence.

Afghanistan will not find its answers in the American billions raining down on the country. Nor will it find them in the assassinations and murders. Long-term peace has to come from the Afghans themselves, and the president is not doing enough to make that happen.