World News

"Blood price" paid to prop up Afghan government

LONDON (Reuters) - The international community is paying a huge price in casualties and vast sums of aid money to support a corrupt and unpopular government in Afghanistan, a former U.N. political affairs aide in Kabul said Monday.

“We’re paying a very high price in blood and treasure to prop up this government and unless we are prepared to take a much firmer stance, we will fail,” Nick Horne, who resigned from the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, wrote in The Times.

Horne said it was time for the world to “push the reset button on the Afghan nation-building project” and begin tackling the corruption that has weakened the Afghan government.

“Although I have tried to remain optimistic, I now believe that strategic failure is the most likely outcome of our engagement in Afghanistan,” Horne, who said he had resigned two days ago, wrote.

“Among the greatest mistakes of the international community has been its laissez-faire approach to the corruption, cronyism and venality of the Afghan government,” he added.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is set to contest the presidential run-off on November 7, despite the withdrawal of his only rival, Abdullah Abdullah.

A UN-led panel found widespread fraud in favour of Karzai in the August 20 vote.

The same problems are likely to mar any second vote, Horne said, adding that Afghanistan needs fundamental political reform to create a stronger parliament that will share power between its many ethnic groups and give local communities a bigger say.

Similar criticisms of the Afghan political system have been made by Peter Galbraith, who was sacked as the deputy to U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide.

Galbraith said the United Nations not only ignored massive fraud in the August election but also told him to keep quiet.

Reporting by Peter Griffiths; Editing by Michael Roddy