Battle for Kandahar: If Afghan Gov't Doesn't Improve, 'We're Going to Lose'

But the day when Kandahar City and Kabul can support someone such as Bawari is apparently a long way away. That was made clear when Bawari, along with the Maiwand police chief and the local head of the equivalent of the FBI, had the chance to ask the provincial governor for help in a private meeting.

Bawari and his colleagues deluged Governor Wesa for higher police salaries, more judges and prosecutors, and more development money.

Wesa shrugged his shoulders.

He said where there was once 115 prosecutors in Kandahar City. There are now 15. Where there were once hundreds of judges, there are now only 20 -- for 16,000 cases. He had no money, little staff and nothing to offer the Maiwand officials.

""The people of Maiwand may think that we have everything in Kandahar City," Wesa told them. "But we don't have anything."

Bawari and his colleagues left the meeting stunned.

Feeling the Wrath of President Karzai's Brother

Not only have Maiwand officials felt abandoned by their bosses in Kandahar City and Kabul. Sometimes, they've been offended by them.

When one of Maiwand's most respected tribal elders traveled to Kandahar, he ran straight into the man who U.S. officials say is much more powerful than Wesa: Ahmed Wali Karzai, the provincial council chairman and Afghan President Hamid Karzai's brother.

The tribal elder, Mohammad Yusuf, was invited to a meeting led by Hamid Karzai about the Kandahar campaign. Yusuf, according to U.S. officials, stood up and complained about security convoys that travel through Maiwand and sometimes indiscriminately shot into the local villages.

As Yusuf spoke, Ahmed Wali Karzai stood up and started yelling at Yusuf, telling him to sit down and calling him a "Taliban sympathizer," according to an American military official who wished to remain anonymous.

Yusuf returned to Maiwand even more upset with the Kandahar and Kabul governments. The incident hurt the efforts made by Thoreen's company to convince local elders to support the government.

Later, speaking of the meeting, French, the battalion commander, would say only that Yusuf was "not shown the respect he deserved."

Thoreen hopes his company's efforts will set the groundwork for the replacement troops arriving in Maiwand soon.

He worries, though, that as the district government improves and the tribal elders find their voice, the Taliban will launch more violent attacks. Insurgents have planted more roadside bombs in recent weeks, he says, although Afghan soldiers and police officers have found all of them.

But the biggest challenge facing the incoming surge of troops will not be violent confrontation. In general, the Taliban usually flee an area temporarily when they see overwhelming firepower. The largest challenge will be to continue to build a still fragile government, continue to convince tribal elders that they are safe enough to rebuild local systems of justice that the Taliban intimidated and destroyed.

"It's the void in local leadership that pushes people to choose the Taliban," Thoreen says. "If we show the governments in the district centers as the main sources of development, then all the districts will come toward the center of Kandahar City, and get stronger."

That is the only way the Kandahar campaign will be successful, U.S. officials say.

As one senior military official put it,, "Whether we win or lose here depends on the government."

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