Five years after Western countries promised Afghans to rebuild their country, Afghanistan is on the brink, facing its worst crisis since the Taliban were overthrown in 2001.Afghan dignitaries and Western diplomats are scathing in their criticism of President Hamid Karzai's inability to govern effectively or punish those in his administration who are corrupt, dealing in drugs or close to the Taliban. In turn, Karzai has lashed out at the West's refusal to help his government with more money and troops much earlier on.Ordinary Afghans have no doubt that the Taliban virus is spreading. Taliban have been reported just 25 miles from the capital, distributing at night written death threats to those who help the government.Taliban attacks have taken place in the north near the border with Central Asia and in the west near Iran, hundreds of miles from the main battleground in the south. Every day a school is burnt down or a teacher killed by the Taliban.Over 500 Afghans have been killed in the past six weeks in the south where some 6,000 US, Canadian and British troops under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are battling the Taliban. Afghans remember that a similar death rate in 1992-93, amidst civil war, heralded the arrival of the Taliban who promised peace and security.Karzai is now seen by many Afghans and Western diplomats as betraying the reform and nation building agenda set out by the Bonn agreement in 2001 and reverting back to rule by fiat on tribal and ethnic lines.Since the May 29 riots that shook Kabul, he has ordered two corrupt former governors in the south, both linked to the drug trade, to rearm their illegal militias in order to fight the Taliban.It took several months of persuasion by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the Foreign Office to get rid of one of them - Sher Mohammed Akhunzada, the governor of Helmand province in southwest Afghanistan - before British troops were deployed in the region. Now Akhunzada is back with a 500-man militia force, while his brother remains deputy governor.The Dutch went through a similar process to get rid of another governor before their troops were deployed in the southern province of Uruzgan. NATO is furious and so are the Japanese who have spent over nearly $100 million funding the disarmament of 62,000 militiamen. Tokyo threatened to cancel Karzai's visit to the Japanese capital later this month. Meanwhile, the United Nations program to continue disarming the militias is now at a standstill.Karzai has also appointed 13 police officers widely known for brutality and corruption to key posts and bought back as an adviser General Mohammed Fahim, a powerful former warlord and defense minister who was sacked two years ago after extraordinary Western pressure.
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