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Afghans on troop surge debate: It's the corruption, stupid.

Afghan leaders say any effort that doesn't address election fraud and corrupt officials will fail.

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If an ordinary Afghan could walk into the Washington war rooms where the faltering US war effort is being debated, his message would be: It's the corrupt government, stupid.

The counterinsurgency strategy outlined by Gen. Stanley McChrystal in a report leaked Monday aims to win the Afghan population over to the side of their government. But last month's unresolved election, marred by widespread fraud, has left Afghans less optimistic that security and good governance are available from Kabul and its local emissaries.

In the contested province of Kandahar, for instance, tribal elder Haji Padshah says police told voters to reelect President Hamid Karzai in districts like Arghandab, Shorabak, Spin Boldak, and Registan. Such incidents show how corrupt political leaders stand in the way of General McChrystal's vision of training a police force that serves the people, and in doing so, wins undecided Afghans away from support for the Taliban.

"If you have fraud in the elections, you don't have the right person [as leader], and if you don't have the right person, you can't make security better," said Mr. Padshah in a telephone interview.


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