Washington Babylon — March 24, 2010, 10:43 am

When Will The U.S. Be Leaving Afghanistan? Never! (or not anytime soon)

A few months back I attended a panel on Afghanistan sponsored by the the Middle East Policy Council, which is headed by Frank Anderson, a former senior CIA official. The breakfast was off-the-record but the participants generally represented a mainstream point of view and were broadly pessimistic about the situation in the country. They all viewed corruption, security and good governance as serious problems and ones where not a lot of progress was being made.

Given that, I asked, what is the chance that the U.S. can achieve anything resembling “success” in Afghanistan, and what does success even mean? The reply was that there was only one measure, that being if Afghan forces were at some point able to take charge of the country’s own security and policing, which would allow most American troops to withdraw.

Well, gauged by that standard, success in Afghanistan isn’t around the corner. A new article by ProPublica and Newsweek calls the Afghan Police “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.”

America has spent more than $6 billion since 2002 in an effort to create an effective Afghan police force, buying weapons, building police academies, and hiring defense contractors to train the recruits—but the program has been a disaster. More than $322 million worth of invoices for police training were approved even though the funds were poorly accounted for, according to a government audit, and fewer than 12 percent of the country’s police units are capable of operating on their own.

Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the State Department’s top representative in the region, has publicly called the Afghan police “an inadequate organization, riddled with corruption.”

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