NATO officials were insisting all along that the offensive in Kandahar Province, the centerpiece of their war effort in Afghanistan this year, depended chiefly on support from the Afghan government. The planned offensive was even delayed when the support didn’t seem to be there. But the offensive finally came, and now officials are wondering: where are the Afghans?
Not in Kandahar, it seems, as the US continues to trumpet its military victories in the provinces at the same time officials privately acknowledge the offensive could meet with another disastrous failure because, as usual, the Afghan government is unprepared to take over after the US chases the Taliban out.
This is a very old story in Afghanistan, as many of these Kandahar Province towns have been occupied several times by the US and other NATO forces since 2001, and within short order their handovers to the Karzai government fail, and the Taliban return.
But the lesson seems to be slow in taking for officials, as the US is pumping hundreds of millions of dollars through its USAID program to build government office space around Kandahar. Offices for bureaucrats who don’t exist, to fill positions nobody wants.