Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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The weak performance and lack of transparency within the Afghan government are a growing factor in debate over the effectiveness of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, although government capacity is significantly larger than it was when the Taliban regime fell in late 2001. In a December 1, 2009, policy statement on Afghanistan, which followed the second of two major Afghanistan strategy reviews in 2009, President Obama stated that The days of providing a blank check to the Afghan government are over. Since early 2010, the Administration has been pressing President Hamid Karzai to move more decisively to address corruption within his government, with apparently limited success. Karzai has agreed to cooperate with U.S.-led efforts to build the capacity of several emerging anti-corruption institutions, but these same institutions have sometimes targeted Karzai allies and undermined the U.S.-Karzai partnership. In part as a reaction, Karzai has strengthened his bonds to ethnic and political faction leaders who are often involved in illicit economic activity and who undermine rule of law. Some of the effects of corruption burst into public view in August 2010 when major losses were announced by the large Kabul Bank, in part due to large loans to major shareholders, many of whom are close to Karzai. While prodding Karzai on corruption--including some moves in Congress to link further U.S. aid to clear progress on this issue--another clear trend over the past two years has been to reduce sole reliance on the Afghan central government by strengthening local governing bodies. This is being implemented, in part, by expanding the presence of U.S. government civilians as advisers outside Kabul. The disputes with Karzai over corruption compound continuing international concerns about Afghan democracy and Karzais legitimacy. In the August 20, 2009, presidential election, there were widespread charges of fraud, many substantiated by an Electoral Complaints Commission ECC.
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