Corruption in Afghanistan becomes an issue in the the US Presidential race, but solutions are hard to come by.
In the September 26 presidential debate, both Obama and McCain acknowledged the potential security risk that Afghanistan holds for the United States. Obama repeatedly expressed his concern of the growing opium economy is Afghanistan. In a 2007 paper, (PDF), a UN working group said that “The very large opium economy is widely considered to be the most important source of corruption in the country.”
A corrupt Afghanistan government leads to a more unstable and dangerous Afghanistan, threatening to undermine NATO efforts to stabilize the country and turn over security to local forces. It’s not clear what specific steps either presidential candidate will take to fight Afghan corruption once elected, but the UN paper above lays out a framework for intervention.
David Frum, writing for The National Review, has a different take on the source of the problem: corruption, he says, follows the influx of cash created by the nation-building project.
The most important limitation upon “capacity” however is the all-prevailing corruption. Police officers steal their men’s pay, the men erect private toll boths on roads to collect fees, UN food is stolen and resold, drug traffickers pay officials to look the other way, etc. Money is being made! On the outskirts of Mazar-i-Sharif are developments that would not look out of place in southern California, and the section of Kabul near the old (abandoned) royal palace holds dozens of large ostentatious houses built in the indescribable local aesthetic. (The local new rich favor very tall skinny ornamental columns and big windows on the outside and oddly shaped chandeliers in brass and tinted glass in their interiors.)
One British officer asked an Afghan friend why corruption had become so much worse since the overthrow of the Taliban. The answer: “Now there’s more to steal.” A civilian worker in Kandahar put it rather differently: “Afghanistan,” she said, “is the most difficult state-building exercise the international community has ever undertaken.”
(David Frum link via Andrew Sullivan.)
— Lacy Clark & Jonathan Werve