Resilient Afghan governor frets about budget, not bombs

In four years serving as a governor in southern Afghanistan, Tooryalai Wesa has survived nine assassination attempts, most recently by a visitor who hid a pistol in the sole of his shoe.

It is a measure of the changes unfolding in his native Kandahar province -- also the birthplace of the Taliban -- that he seems more preoccupied with the size of his budget than the risk that his enemies might kill him.

We don't have enough resources from the government, the burly technocrat said in an interview at his compound. What was promised, even that was not enough for us.

With most foreign combat troops due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, what happens in Kandahar will help decide whether President Barack Obama's decision to send another 30,000 U.S. troops -- most to the south -- in 2010 set Afghanistan on the path to stability, or was a costly waste.

U.S. commanders who lobbied for the troop increase saw Kandahar as the make-or-break battleground, believing they needed to rout the Taliban on their home turf to reinvigorate the West's faltering campaign.

With Obama's surge force gone, U.S. and Afghan officials are looking for evidence that Kandahar has reached a tipping point where mutually dependent gains in security and governance are enough to ensure the Taliban cannot rise again.

CASH SHORTFALL

Wesa says the U.S.-backed effort to transform Kandahar's shell of a state into a credible administration is working, but he needs more money from Kabul more quickly to finish projects and provide services so disillusionment doesn't set in.

Afghanistan is new, the transition process is new, there are shortcomings, there are problems in each new system, he said. Hopefully in the near future it will be on time.

The fact Wesa is even alive might be considered a victory.

... contd.

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