NPR opens the spin gates pretty widely:
Skeptics might look at the departure of the governor of Afghanistan’s Marjah District after only months in office as just another sign that NATO’s efforts to use that area as a model for progress in the rest of that country aren’t going well.
But there’s another way to view it and that’s how NATO commander for Afghanistan’s southwest region, Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Mills says he sees it.
It’s a shift, Mills says, from an official with not much executive experience to one with more, a good thing if you’re trying to gain the upper hand on the Taliban by establishing a functioning government in Marjah.
Dumb-ass skeptics, interpreting being fired after six months as a sign of incompetence. Then again, MG Mills said much the same thing. Complaining he doesn’t have any executive experience is a bit odd, if nothing else than because we already knew he didn’t when the Washington Post reported on his years-long tenure in a German prison. At the time, anonymous U.S. officials said:
“We want to ensure that Haji Zahir’s face is on everything we do,” said one official who works with him in Marja.
Alyssa Rubin reported in March that the U.S. had lifted up Haji Zahir as an example of the very “good governance” Afghanistan needs to emerge from the war. So what gives?
Zahir was picked by Governor Mangal, who’s run Helmand province ever since Sher Muhammad Akhundzada was forced out for possessing several metric tons of opium paste in his housing compound in 2005. Mangal wanted Zahir installed as the governor of Marjah over the objections of Hamid Karzai. Mangal himself hasn’t exactly been the most stable or reliable of leaders lately, like when he arrested several Italian hospital workers in Lashkar Gah and accused them of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in an elaborate assassination plot against him (the workers were later freed when no one could produce evidence of the charges). And Helmand itself has teetered, with bad local officials and corrupt policemen and soldiers.
Haji Zahir’s firing is just a symptom of deeper problems.