President Obama expects Afghan President Hamid Karzai—freshly legitimized by an election featuring fraud so massive that it led to a runoff from which his only remaining opponent recently withdrew, fearing more of the same—to crack down on official corruption. The New York Times reports that "the administration wants Mr. Karzai and the Afghan government to put into place an anticorruption commission to establish strict accountability for government officials at the national and provincial levels." How strict? Not very:
Some American officials and their European counterparts would like at least a few arrests of what one administration official called "the more blatantly corrupt" people in the Afghan government.
Administration officials declined to provide the names of people they wanted to see arrested and acknowledged that such arrests were a long shot...
"A couple of high-profile heads on a platter would be nice," said one European diplomat involved in Afghanistan.
The Times notes that "the more blatantly corrupt" officials include "Mr. Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade" and "one of Mr. Karzai’s running mates, Marshal Muhammad Qasim Fahim, a former defense minister who is also suspected of drug trafficking." So Obama and other Western leaders are hoping for, at best, a few token arrests, which they admit are unlikely to happen. Obama calls this "a 'new chapter' in the legitimacy of the Afghan government."
If our president were serious about reducing official corruption in Afghanistan, he might consider the role played by the prohibitionist drug policy that made illicit opium production the country's biggest industry. But despite shifting tactics, the Obama administration continues to wage the war on opium, which enriches and strengthens the Taliban insurgency even as it puts drug traffickers in positions of power.