Last night on PBS Newshour, William Brangham interviewed Sarah Chayes in a piece entitled “The U.S. ignored corruption within the Afghan government. Did that lead to its fall?” Who is Chayes and why does her opinion matter?
Per PBS Newshour, “Sarah Chayes covered the fall of the Taliban after 9/11 for NPR. She then started and ran several NGOs in the country. She served as adviser to several senior U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan and then to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
She is the author of several books. The most recent is ‘On Corruption in America: And What Is at Stake.’ And she joins us now from Paris.”
I encourage you to read the entire piece per the link below. But, the gist can be gleaned from the following:
“Sarah Chayes:In simple terms, why would a population take risks to fight the Taliban on behalf of a government that is treating them almost as badly as the Taliban do? So, Afghan government officials would shake people down at every interaction. The massive international funding that was arriving in the country was being siphoned off or captured by government officials and their cronies. And from Afghans’ perspective, it almost looked like the United States was in favor of this system, because our officials were always seen partnering with these venal Afghan leaders. And no matter how much the population complained, they really couldn’t get us to address the serious — the issues seriously.”
But, she goes further. Pakistan, with the help of the eventual Afghani president Hamid Karzai, established the Taliban foothold in Afghanistan in 1994. The US favored as a president a man who was double dealing with Pakistan. Here is what she adds:
“Again, it’s very counterintuitive, but it was Karzai who initially negotiated the entry of the Taliban into Kandahar back in 1994.
He was basically operating on behalf to have the Pakistani military intelligence agency. Karzai got into a fight with his father about it. Others disagreed with him about it. But that was the role he played. And so, again, it stunned me when I learned this, that our choice to be the first president of Afghanistan was the very one who had ushered the Taliban into power in the first place.”
In essence, the US has known of the corrupt leadership in Afghanistan and actually enabled it per Chayes. This is a key reason citizens welcome in others like the Taliban. What we were less aware of is the double dealing of Karzai with Pakistan. She notes the happiest people right now are the Pakistanis, as they have a friend in power in their neighboring country.
And, we wonder why we cannot get things straight in the middle east?