KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — As the last of the 30,000 additional troops that President Obama dispatched to Afghanistan arrived, top American military leaders here conceded Friday that the country's pervasive corruption threatens to undermine the effort to clear communities of insurgents and hand them over to governments that Afghans consider legitimate.
Faced with problematic public and political support at home for the war in Afghanistan, the Obama administration and Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Afghanistan, continue to issue upbeat pronouncements about progress and the prospects for success. Many U.S. military and intelligence officials and diplomats in the country, however, are more guarded, warning among other things that while the additional U.S. troops are concentrated in the south, the Taliban are moving into areas in the north and elsewhere.
Moreover, even if coalition and Afghan troops succeed in eradicating Taliban influence and training Afghan forces to take over security, the officials said, the national and local governments are riddled with corruption and have lost the trust of many Afghans. Many Afghans say that while they don't like the Taliban, the U.S.-backed government of President Hamid Karzai is no better at providing security and legitimate governance than the militant Islamists are.
Afghans lack confidence that their central government can provide them with security, said Army Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, the No. 2 commander in Afghanistan. "It is just like everything else. It will be a slow process," he said. "All of that has got to improve."
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He called the mission challenging, "but not impossible."
Added Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on Friday during a two-day visit: "Everyone knows this is far from a done deal."
"I think it all points in a positive direction," Gates said Friday in Zhari district, the birthplace of the Taliban, after meeting with troops stationed there.