Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Tackling Corruption in Afghanistan

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Tackling Corruption in Afghanistan

Corruption is broadly defined as the abuse of entrusted authority—both public and private—for illegitimate gain. It is a barrier not only to economic growth and development, but also to political stability, democracy, social justice and sustainable peace. In fragile and conflict-riddled countries such as Afghanistan, corruption can strongly undermine the effectiveness and legitimacy of nascent government institutions.
Although corruption in now country including Afghanistan cannot be eliminated overnight, but it could be significantly reduced, and even modest improvements in public accountability will substantially enhance the legitimacy of the government among the people. As Afghanistan seeks to stand on its own, the national unity government cannot afford to appear indifferent to the anger many Afghans feel toward an entrenched elite widely perceived to be motivated more by greed than by a spirit of public service. Likewise, the frustration of the international community over revelations of the massive scale of fraud and waste of their taxpayer funds in Afghanistan must be considered.
Corruption reemerged as a potent force in Afghan life following the U.S.-led international coalition’s overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. When NATO started its mission in Afghanistan, a wide network of political elites connected to the Afghan factions effectively positioned themselves as intermediaries between well-intentioned Western officials, donors, and ordinary Afghans. They succeeded in diverting billions of foreign aid dollars and investment to themselves and their allies, resulting in a number of high-profile scandals in Afghanistan. The most disastrous of these was the near-collapse of the Afghan banking system following revelations that its largest institution, Kabul Bank that deeply undermined the credibility of the Afghanistan to the international community and also undermined the credibility of the government to the Afghans.
Currently, entire government institutions have become enmeshed in complex patronage networks that stretch from minor functionaries to high-ranking ministers. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the realm of customs and border control. As the New York Times put it, “corruption can no longer be described as a cancer on the system: It is the system.” A new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, estimated that more than half of Afghanistan’s annual customs revenue is being lost to graft.
Maybe, most troubling, however—from the perspective of Afghanistan’s post-conflict transition—has been the persistent corruption that has plagued the institutions of government that directly are responsible for law and order in the country. The Afghan National Police, or ANP, have become particularly notorious for pernicious graft and is considered as one of the most organs of the government. SIGAR has repeatedly faulted the Afghan Ministry of the Interior for failing to properly account for billions of dollars allocated for police salaries via a U.N.-administered trust fund. According to SIGAR’s most recent audit report, corrupt practices within the ministry “could take as much as 50 [percent] of a policeman’s salary.” This underpayment has predictably resulted in a high incidence of corrupt solicitations by police officers, which affects ordinary Afghans most directly. A 2012 survey by the Asia Foundation found that more than half of Afghans who had contact with an ANP officer over the previous year were forced to pay a bribe. The question rises here is that, how such corrupt people can maintain rule of law and order in a conflict-riddle country?
The Afghan National Army, while more professional than the ANP, has also struggled with misallocation of resources and high incidences of bribe solicitation. A 2013 Transparency International survey found that one-fifth of Afghans viewed the military as corrupt. By contrast, the justice system may be even more reviled than the police—both the Transparency International and United Nations surveys found that Afghans consider judges the judiciary the most corrupt segment of their society. Corruption networks are such strong in these institutions that tackling corruption without a national will beside the political will, no entity would succeed in this battle. As a result, it is the duty of every Afghan to stand firmly against corruption and corrupt people in order to save their country from the networks of various mafias.
Causes and effects of corruption
There are numerous and complex causes of corruption in Afghanistan. Several decades of conflict have severely hampered the development and maintenance of effective government institutions and the civil organizations that monitor them in this country. Afghanistan legislative and regulatory frameworks are patchwork and inconsistently enforced, and the agencies tasked with fighting corruption and imposing rule of law often work in isolation and contradict one another. Education levels are low; illiteracy is rampant among the ANP and ANSF. Civil servants are frequently underpaid, and they receive little training. After decades of war, officials use the opportunity of public office to fill personal coffers and channel funds to patronage networks at the expense of public good and the country lack a shared vision among its citizens in terms of national interest to unite them around one goal in order to fight for one cause.

In countries such as Afghanistan with tribal systems and entrenched ethnic divisions, structural weaknesses interact in complex ways with traditional ideas about patronage and kinship—particularly with the expectation that those who have influence wield it to benefit members of their extended network. These systems are the main barriers to the Afghans ethnic groups to transition from patronage and kinship and shape a national vision for their future as a nation.

Sakhi Rezaie is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached atsakhi2007@gmail.com

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