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General Petraeus hearing to put Afghanistan war, not him, in hot seat

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"I do not intend to appropriate one more dime for assistance to Afghanistan until I have confidence that US taxpayer money is not being abused to line the pockets of corrupt Afghan government officials, drug lords and terrorists," said Ms. Lowey, who chairs the House subcommittee on foreign aid.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that more than $3 billion in cash has been flown out of Kabul since 2007, quoting an unnamed US official investigating corruption as saying that "a lot of this looks like our tax dollars being stolen."

Selling counterinsurgency

Since building a better, cleaner government is part of America’s counterinsurgency strategy, Petraeus has his work cut out for him in convincing Congress, and the American public, that the situation can be turned around. Malalai Ishaq Zai, an Afghan lawmaker from Kandahar, told the Monitor last week that the US must do more to crack down on corrupt local officials close to Karzai's government.

“We all know this is going to take more time,” says a Western diplomat working on governance issues here. “The tribal structure isn’t as strong as it used to be after 31 years of conflict and narcomafias [drug gangs] and strongmen have come to establish their own rules. And let’s not forget the Taliban. These forces have degraded security, but it can be restored.”

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