A couple days ago the New York Times ran an op-ed by former Army Captain and Special Advisor to NATO, Joseph Kearns Goodwin. In the article, Afghanistan's Other Front, Goodwin claims that the Karzai's election chicanery "pales in comparison to the systemic, day-to-day corruption within the administration..."
Goodwin has just returned from a"listening tour" of Afghani villages, which yielded disturbing stories of how the administration's corruption impacts Afghani lives on a daily basis: "[T]he homeowner who has to pay a bribe to get connected to the sewage system, the defendant who tenders payment to a judge for a favorable verdict. People were so incensed with the current government’s misdeeds that I often heard the disturbing refrain: 'If Karzai is re-elected, then I am going to join the Taliban.'"
The Taliban, looking to make political use of this corruption, has itself worked to root daily corruption out of their controlled jurisdictions, creating grievance filing systems and erecting efficient court procedures. Fundamentalism and authoritarianism are terrifying forms of government, but if there's one thing they can do, it's eliminate low level crime and petty corruption. Goodwin makes a number of quasi-helpful suggestions, but his biggest stick- withholding money from noncomplying provinces, will probably backfire. Corruption spreads like mold, swiftly in every direction. Without the Karzai administration setting an example from the top, there is nothing NATO can do to stop it.
This article is a worthwhile read for anyone who thinks we need to stay in Afghanistan out of an obligation to the Afghani people. There is nothing inherently wrong with that presumption, but the more you learn about what this American-propped government has offered them, the more you understand why they want us to leave, and why we should.