Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) asks a brave and inconvenient question: As much as the Taliban may be hated, don’t some Afghans prefer their severity over “the endless process of having to grease the palms of endless government bureaucrats”? Better an uncorrupt religious fanatic than a corrupt secular government? It’s the furthest a politician of any party has come to painting a complicated picture of why the Taliban-led insurgency has been able to take root again in southern and eastern Afghanistan after being routed in 2001.
Amb. Eikenberry replied that “the quality of the Afghan ministries, the leadership of the Afghan ministries, is impressive in a lot of areas,” particularly the security services, health and agriculture. Beyond that, “on Taliban justice, you’re absolutely correct,” Eikenberry said. “In areas where there is absolute corruption in the countryside, there is no legitimate government of Afghanistan, the Taliban can deliver a very predictable justice. But it’s a very brutal justice.” Not that Wicker challenged that point, but still.
“Every poll that’s been taken, still, since 2002 … still shows the Taliban to be deeply unpopular,” Eikenberry continued. “But when you reach a point in parts of Afghanistan where the alternative is an absolutely rapacious or brutal government alternative, then the Taliban will find an opening.” That’s why the United States is trying to encourage the Afghanistan ministries to broaden their capabilities out into the provinces, particularly in the south and east.