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Institutional corruption in Afghanistan

With so much attention this week on American primary elections, there is another election this weekend — one you need to know about. While the voting is not taking place here, in this country, it may contribute to the success or failure of President Obama’s foreign policy.

The election is in Afghanistan. They’ll be choosing members of parliament, even though there’s so much violence and instability that some districts won’t even open their polling places. The White House is downplaying the significance of the election, but if the administration’s goal is to begin a draw-down of  America’s 100,000 troops by July of 2011, a chaotic election is unlikely to help convince Americans that any progress is being made.

The White House faces a number of frustrating and difficult challenges in dealing with the government of Hamid Karzai. Corruption is epidemic, and America’s efforts to root it out have led investigators to some of Karzai’s own family and close allies. Relations between the two governments are often contentious. To parse this tough subject, Need to Know spoke with Tom Gregg of New York University’s Center for International Cooperation. Previously, Gregg spent four years on the ground in Afghanistan working for the United Nations as the special assistant to the UN’s special representative in Afghanistan, and he continues to travel there regularly.