Kandahar or Can't-dahar? The Washington Post reports that nation-building is hard:
For the past year, the United States and its NATO allies have tried to build a Kandahar administration that can address residents' grievances and sway them from the Taliban. The U.S. has also embarked on a massive spending spree in order to prop up Kandahar authorities and provide basic services. But with power monopolized by the central government in Kabul, the provincial and municipal offices in southern Afghanistan's largest city are hamstrung and undermanned....
Hundreds of millions more are being pumped through United States Agency for International Development contracts to supply electricity, water, and new office buildings for Afghan officials who, in many cases, do not exist.
"Right now, the government capacity is so anemic we have to do it," said the U.S. official who, like others, was not authorized to speak for the record. "We are acting as donor and government. That's not sustainable."
Only about 40 Afghans work for the city government, out of 120 job slots, and the governor's staff faces a similar shortfall. But even these numbers are misleading, as many of those on staff serve in menial jobs such as cooks or gardeners....
The pay does little to entice. An Afghan working for the U.S.-led coalition or a foreign nonprofit can earn more than $1,000 a month; at city hall, $70. "The Afghan government cannot compete with this wartime economy," said another American official in Kandahar.
Several months ago, U.S. officials tried to circumvent the problem by hiring and paying Afghan government employees on their own. But after about a dozen were put on the payroll, a U.S. official said, the Karzai government objected and closed down the effort, saying it set a bad precedent for other provinces.....
American officials worry that new roads, power plants, or other projects might not be maintained when the U.S. begins pulling troops out of Afghanistan next July . Thrasher said community health clinics have been refurbished in Kandahar but remained unused because they could not be equipped or staffed.
"I'm sure there is trepidation: If we pulled out tomorrow, what would they do?" Thrasher said.
It is difficult to judge whether such massive investment wins the Afghan government much allegiance. With 12,000 U.S. and NATO troops in Kandahar, the collateral damage of military operations often seems to make a more indelible impression.
"The Americans brought us more security, but what have they done? They destroyed our houses, they destroyed our gardens and orchards," said Juma Khan, 70, who evacuated his family from its home in the Zhari district of Kandahar to avoid the fighting.
I wondered back in August when we were going to get out of Afghanistan.