Doing Our Best to Boost Property Values in Dubai

Now we're doubling down on the Karzai government.

Imagine, just for the sake of argument, that you were engaged in a counter-insurgency operation in a country halfway around the world. The country is impoverished and hasn’t had a competent government in thirty years. In fact it may never have had a competent central government.

Now imagine that the government in Kabul the country’s nominal capital doesn’t have the confidence of the people, is corrupt, is incompetent, its chief executive is meeting secretly with the people you’re presumably fighting, and to all appearances the chief aim of the central government is to enrich the family and cronies of the chief executive. What would you do?

If you were the United States and its NATO allies and the country in question were Afghanistan you’d increase the proportion of the aid money being channeled through the Kabul government from 20% to 50%:

A major conference on Afghanistan has endorsed President Hamid Karzai’s goal that Afghan forces should lead security operations across the country by 2014.

Mr Karzai renewed his call for Afghan control over security during the one-day conference in Kabul, attended by representatives from 70 countries.

He said delegates had approved his commitment to good governance.

The talks ended with an agreement to channel 50% of aid – up from 20% – through the Afghan government.

Mr Karzai had been lobbying for more.

The final communique from the conference said: “The international community expressed its support for the president of Afghanistan’s objective that the Afghan national security forces should lead and conduct military operations in all provinces by the end of 2014.”

That should certainly boost property values in Dubai:

Billions of dollars are being secreted out of Kabul to help well-connected Afghans buy luxury villas in Dubai. Amid concerns that the money could be the result of corruption, American politicians have temporarily cut off aid to the Afghan government.

Brigadier General Mohammed Asif Jabarkhel sits with folded arms in his office, just a few steps away from the security checkpoint at Kabul International Airport. “Of course I know what’s going on here,” the 59-year-old head of the airport’s customs police grumbles from beneath his thick moustache as a fan whirs in the background. “But, in this country, who’s allowed to speak the truth?”

Jabarkhel is referring to the huge amounts of money regularly being secreted out of Afghanistan by plane in boxes and suitcases. According to some estimates, since 2007, at least $3 billion (€2.4 billion) in cash has left the country in this way. The preferred destination for these funds is Dubai, the tax haven in the Persian Gulf. And, given the fact that Afghanistan’s total GDP amounts to the equivalent of $13.5 billion, there is no way that the funds involved in this exodus are merely the proceeds of legal business transactions.

FILED UNDER: General,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. Brummagem Joe says:

    Largely true Dave, but what’s the alternative in the short term? Left to me I’d leave the place tomorrow because it’s a lost cause but even I recognize this is not politically possible. The fact is a large part of the military/diplomatic establishment are still committed to this effort not to mention the neoconservative minded Republican party who should we leave would be all over the airwaves screaming about American “defeat” and other simple minded formulations aimed at their simple minded but machismo obsessed base. My hunch is the president is letting history be the teacher here both for the country and for the military. Americans are increasingly giving up on this war, there’s a clear majority for adhering to the timeline for departure. Another year of running around the mountains of Afghanistan, mounting evidence of corruption and incompetence by the Karzai govt, fading interest by allies, ever growing casualties, and the whole thing will reach a tipping point where the consensus at the popular and official level shifts to a desire for withdrawal. Not very tidy but this is what happens when your foreign policy becomes a hostage of domestic politics.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Largely true Dave, but what’s the alternative in the short term?

    I’ve given that answer repeatedly over the last months and years: accept the notion that we’re going to have a persistent military presence in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future and tailor what we actually do to that reality and maintaining domestic political support for it. Practice counter-terrorism rather than counter-insurgency. Reduce our nation-building ambitions. Cut back on the troops we’ve got in Afghanistan not only to the point that they were two years ago but lower than that. Change their rules of engagement so that they’re more deadly but reduce their mission and operational tempo so they’re less obtrusive.

    More aid at the local level rather than at the Kabul level.

    Pretty much the opposite of the direction we’ve been going in.

  3. Brummagem Joe says:

    Dave Schuler says:
    Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 13:41

    “and tailor what we actually do to that reality and maintaining domestic political support for it. Practice counter-terrorism rather than counter-insurgency.”

    So what does this mean in practice. A citadel in and around Kabul? Cede most of the country to the Taliban? Have drones flying around and missing occasionally thus further strengthening indigenous Taliban support? Imposing an indefinite war on the country with all that means in terms of human misery? With due respect Dave what you’re advocating is as much fantasy as the ideas of the victory absolutists. Interestingly, there’s a piece in this morning’s NYT which picks up on exactly my points about eroding support for the Afghanistan war amongst the political/military establishment. I didn’t have prior knowledge, honest.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    Do we care about the Taliban? Is the Afghan Taliban a “terrorist group with international reach”? I don’t think so. As long as Al Qaeda (or similar) doesn’t set up a base of operations in Afghanistan, I don’t honestly think we care much about the country.

    With due respect Dave what you’re advocating is as much fantasy as the ideas of the victory absolutists.

    It may well be a fantasy but it appears to be a fantasy that’s shared by quite a number of people who have actual working knowledge of Afghanistan, e.g. Rory Stewart.

  5. Brummagem Joe says:

    Dave Schuler says:
    Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 14:41
    “Do we care about the Taliban? Is the Afghan Taliban a “terrorist group with international reach”? I don’t think so. As long as Al Qaeda (or similar) doesn’t set up a base of operations in Afghanistan, I don’t honestly think we care much about the country.”

    My answer is no to all these questions so we’re basically on the same page with the difference that you think we can keep control of the situation with some sort of limited liability policy such as I outlined and which you never responded to specifically preferring to address my more general abstract observation. Please tell me where my shorthand summary of your proposed approach is wrong. We might just as well withdraw as pursue this relatively costly charade which has most of the negatives of absolutist approach as far as I can see.