By announcing an 18-month timetable, Barack Obama has thrown down the gauntlet for an Afghan government and military that have so far proven unreliable. Hamid Karzai’s government is considered among the world’s most corrupt, but Obama seems to be betting that the withdrawal timetable will encourage it to finally clean up its act. He also plans to send less money directly to the central coffers, instead funneling it to local officials, Dexter Filkins writes in the New York Times.
Even riskier is Obama’s plan to train new Afghan forces to take over the security job. Afghanistan currently boasts a paltry 90,000 soldiers and 93,000 police to protect a population of roughly 30 million. And despite years of mentoring, they still lack the basic bureaucratic skills and literacy needed to manage a large force. They’ve been unable to maintain themselves in the field, mount operations at night, or use complicated weaponry, Filkins notes, and corruption is widespread.