Wednesday, November 18, 2009

War Notes: November 18, 2009

Transparency International, a German-based anti-corruption monitor, has declared Afghanistan the second most corrupt nation on Earth in its new rankings. The agency said major factors included rampant bribery for everything from basic services to high positions in government, along with Afghanistan's skyrocketing opium trade. The survey evaluated 180 countries, and placed Afghanistan 179th, just ahead of Somalia, down from 176th a year ago. Incidentally, the 176th place spot is now occupied by Iraq.

Despite widespread public opposition in both countries, Germany and the U.K will continue to provide military support to the war in Afghanistan. Chancellor Merkel will commit Germany's 4000 soldier force for at least another year. Notably, the leading German opposition party also supports keeping troops in Afghanistan to fulfill its international obligation, so this policy is unlikely to change soon. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Brown is defying 70% of of the British population, especially his Labor base, in not only committing Britain's 9000 troops for another year, but pledging the addition of 500 more soldiers. Easily the second most active NATO member in this war, Britain has paid the price with 97 deaths in Afghanistan in 2009 alone.

In an alternatingly tragic and enlightening poll, Afghans rated much of the last 20 years as significantly worse than the present. Of those polled, 38% named the Communist era as the worst in the nation's history, 33% cited the period of Taliban rule, 22% named the preceding civil war, and only 3% identified the present as the worst period of Afghan history. The numbers reveal what an awful history the Afghan people have endured, and reminds us that more than an entire generation has been born and raised in the backdrop of endless war. When asked why the present war was prolonging, 70% cited poverty and unemployment as a major factor. Indeed, the strength of the Taliban lies largely in their ability to deliver an $8 a day paycheck. A further 48% cited corruption as a major factor, while neither the Taliban (36%) nor NATO occupation (18%) were considered chiefly responsible for the continuation of the war. While we are pouring over poll numbers, a Quinnepiac poll shows only 48% of Americans feel continuing the war is the right thing to do, so anti-war protesters out there, know you are not alone.

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