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McChrystal: Afghan Corruption Must be ‘Wiped Away’

December 10, 2009 at 12:00 AM EDT
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In an excerpt from a conversation with Charlie Rose, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, says ultimate success in the war will depend on the confidence of the Afghan people in their own government.

CHARLIE ROSE: The core of your philosophy is you have to convince the Afghan people that they have a reason to believe that they can live in peace with some security and some manner of governance that protects them?

GENERAL STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, U.S. Commander in Afghanistan: Absolutely. At the end of the day, the people who judge success or failure will be the Afghan people, who will make decisions on how they go forward, who they support. So, it’s critical that we convince them that their government can protect them and will protect them, and then meet their basic needs.

CHARLIE ROSE: What’s the metric? How do you measure that?

GENERAL STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL: There are a number of ways, Charlie. One, of course, is polling. You ask them. But there are a number of other ways as well. People make decisions that reflect their outlook on the future, whether a farmer plants a crop, whether someone makes an investment, whether individuals will join the government, whether they will bet their future with the government, join the police, join the army, in fact, join the government, accept a government position. All of those are indicators of confidence. When they believe that things are going in that direction they make very, very important life decisions. And we try to look at all of those.

CHARLIE ROSE: Why are you confident that President Karzai, with all the allegations of fraud, with all the allegations of members of his family, is going to be up to the task that you have given him, that the Afghan people are expecting from him?

GENERAL STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL: I think your last point is key. I think President Karzai absolutely understands what the Afghan people desire from him and expect of him. And I think he has a deeply held sense of responsibility to deliver for them. And I don’t believe that the government is one man. No government is. I think that the government of Afghanistan has a tremendous number of leaders who come together as a team, just like the ISAF command is certainly not me. It’s a team of people. And I think that that government increasingly is focused on providing for the Afghan people, and so I’m confident that they will move forward in a good partnership.

CHARLIE ROSE: But this is the same people who everybody accuses of being in a massive fraudulent election. And so all of a sudden, even though they did that, you now believe that they can take confidence-building measures with the Afghan people.

GENERAL STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL: There are clearly steps that have got to be taken.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yes. And that’s what I want to know.

GENERAL STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL: Absolutely. There have got to be steps taken to reduce corruption, particularly high-profile corruption. There is a perception in many in the population that there is a sense of protection of many corrupt officials by the government, and that’s got to be wiped away. That’s got to be directly addressed, although I know that it’s difficult to do that. They’re going to have to take that on to regain their credibility with the people.

JIM LEHRER: McChrystal said, the next 18 months will be decisive in reversing the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan.