KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Much has been said and written this week about recent inflammatory comments made by President Hamid Karzai, head of the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan -- an entity widely abbreviated out here as "GIRoA." He has railed publicly against "interference" by "the West," demanded that the U.N. cease complaining about corruption, and even defiantly threatened to abandon GIRoA and join the Taliban. The fact is GIRoA hardly exists outside of Kabul -- and where it is extant, it is often corrupt.
Money from opium and hashish fuels the Taliban, pays for improvised explosive devices, or IEDs -- which kill and maim Americans and Afghans alike -- and wreaks havoc with GIRoA credibility. Our allies, all 43 of them in the International Security Assistance Force "coalition," know this to be so. The Taliban know it is true. Whether he acknowledges it or not, Hamid Karzai knows it. So do the people of Afghanistan. And therein is the biggest challenge for successfully concluding this conflict.
Over the past month, our Fox News team has accompanied combined U.S. and Afghan units in four of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. We have heard scores of Afghan men at "shuras" (loose translation: meetings) with coalition forces -- women do not attend -- blatantly condemn government corruption. "We trust you (Americans), but we don't trust (the GIRoA)" is a common refrain. If that sentiment isn't repaired, Afghanistan could descend into anarchy -- like that which led to the Taliban's first seizing power, in 1996, after a bloody civil war that destroyed the civil institutions and infrastructure of this country.
Now, after nearly nine years of war, Afghanistan desperately needs rule of law. U.S. and allied military power alone cannot create a system of justice that holds criminals in this country accountable. Yet despite Karzai's apparent opposition and considerable political and bureaucratic inertia, rule of law may be coming anyway.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.