In Kandahar, the Taliban Own the Night

But in quarterly assessments of the Kandahar police, the Canadian government admitted in September that only one of the 17 police units in the city was capable of "planning, executing and sustaining near-autonomous operations."

Alex Strick van Linschoten, who says he is the only Westerner living on his own inside the city, has seen the deterioration of the city's security.

"Each year and each month gets slightly worse in terms of security in the city," he says. "I drive around the streets with my driver who's been living in the city his whole life and he points to people standing on the corners and says, 'That's a Taliban commander from this place and that's a Taliban commander from that place.'"

Van Linschoten says he has seen Taliban checkpoints inside the city limits. "From the minute you step off the plane, you're being monitored, and that's scary," he argues.

Capt. Michael Thurman, the Bravo Company commander of the 293rd Military Police Company, described the effect of that fear. "After they get scared, they start to question, 'Well who do I go with? Do I go with the Taliban or do I go with the Afghan National Police? Whose side of the government should I work on now?," he says. "We have to secure them. And to do that, we need more policing."

"That Connection Doesn't Exist"

In addition to training police, the U.S. and Canada will focus on trying to improve the city's government, which Western officials say has so far failed to enhance the city with any significant development. Without that development, they say residents will never support the foreign forces who are seen as the government's patrons.

"We have an enormous amount of money, but we can deliver services only if we have the people who can work with us," one Western official in the city said.

On a recent patrol, Maj. Frederic Jean, who until recently was the battle commander for the Canadian forces in the city, walked into an angry group of shop owners.

They were complaining that the government hadn't helped them after a massive truck bomb exploded across the street in late August, killing dozens and destroying many of their buildings.

"Nobody is going to help us," said Hashim, one of the store owners. He argued that the families of the victims had received money from the government, but the owners whose shops had been damaged had not received a penny. "Because of that, we are going to rebuild it by our own expenses."

The lack of electricity is especially irksome to residents. Despite millions of dollars in development aid, Kandahar only has three to four hours of electricity a day.

Part of the problem is corruption, U.S. officials say, especially within the lower levels of bureaucracy. American military officers describe occasions when Afghan police had shaken locals down at checkpoints. Civilian officials describe occasions when government officials skimmed huge chunks of development aid.

In one small example, the manager of Western company in Kandahar said he had to pay a $5,000 bribe to increase electricity going into his building.

But a larger problem than corruption is capacity. The governor argues that Kandahar does not have enough money or resources.

One Western official who helped the governor sign a contract with a Western security company joked how few people he had working for him. Had the Canadians not helped the governor fill out his staff, the official quipped, "the only people in his office would have been him and a driver."

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