10 Facts About Corruption in AfghanistanWar has plagued the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, a South Asian nation of approximately 35 million people, for 40 years. The near-constant state of conflict produced immense corruption, which persists during the extended NATO mission there today. Listed below are 10 facts about corruption in Afghanistan.

 10 Facts About Corruption in Afghanistan

  1. Afghanistan is one of the 10 most corrupt nations in the world. According to Transparency International, it ranks 172 out of 180 total countries and accompanies Sudan and North Korea near the bottom of the list. There are some signs of gradual improvement, but Afghanistan has a long way to go to ascend the list.
  2. Afghan government corruption reduces the effectiveness of American reconstruction aid. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reported to the U.S. Congress in April 2019 that corruption was the foremost issue dooming restoration efforts. Unfortunately, through the government’s anti-corruption campaigns, the SIGAR also discovered that certain international standards are not always met, such as cooperation between agencies.
  3. Corruption significantly impacts business development in Afghanistan. The World Bank interviewed 410 firms in 2014 and 16.2 percent stated that corruption was the largest impediment to business. It ranked only below political instability in the survey, a telling indicator of its prevalence. Gifts became fundamental for businesses wanting to grow. Acquiring a government contract necessitated bribes 46.9 percent of the time, and 79.3 percent of plumbing requests required bribes.
  4. The 2010 Kabul Bank Theft. Bank executives stole millions of dollars of Afghans’ money and crippled Afghanistan’s already shaky financial system. Kabul Bank’s CEO, Khalilullah Ferozi, and its founder, Sherkhan Farnood, led the fraudulent money laundering operation until the bank’s near collapse. The SIGAR states that this extensive corruption scandal cost the Afghan government an $825 million bailout, an expense which consumed five to six percent of the nation’s GDP. Although the country imprisoned both Ferozi and Farnood, their scam’s repercussions continue. Afghanistan’s government is still repaying debts after the bailout to save the systemically vital institution.
  5. Public services routinely fall prey to gifts as well. Transparency International reported that 50 percent of Afghans requesting aid from government agencies in 2012 paid a bribe to have their needs met. Bribery demands handicapped the distribution of benefits to all Afghan citizens. According to a U.N. study on the issue, for every five Afghans who paid a bribe, one Afghan could not pay due to lack of funds. As a result, impoverished households received less assistance than wealthier families who could afford bribes.
  6. Afghanistan’s universities are not immune to the corruption prevalent in the government and banks. Colleges rely on paper records and lack digital verification systems essential to preventing deceit. As a result, the U.N. found that there are approximately 20,000 “ghost students,” or registered students who do not actually exist, in the university system. The Afghan government, believing the students are real, grants loans for education, which university staff steals. U.N. statistics display that university-related scams cost the government 40 percent of potential tax revenue.
  7. By virtue of their position, Afghanistan’s police force is especially prone to corruption. The U.N. found that 22 percent of bribes that people paid in 2012 were to police, and disturbingly, 24 percent of the bribes people offered to police were to prevent arrest. Falsifying evidence and ignoring drug offenses had similar negative effects on police integrity. The police have personnel verification issues as well. Reuters recently reported that there are 800 “ghost officers” in Zabul province whose salaries disappear into unknown hands.
  8. Community Based Monitoring (CBM). A civil society organization named Integrity Watch Afghanistan operates several CBM programs to maintain governmental accountability. One of these programs, CBM-Trials, aims to combat corruption by encouraging citizen involvement in public trials and monitoring adherence to procedural rules. Implementation of CBM-Trials included electing monitors who would attend public cases and educating local populations on court procedures with mock trials. From a humble start in two provinces, CBM-Trials expanded to seven provinces by 2014 and managed to monitor 5,019 trials and 775 cases. These numbers exceeded the 1,000 trial a year goal set by the program in 2011. The program continued into 2018 after 50 successful Theater of the Oppressed performances, in which audience members participated in theatrical critiques of court corruption.
  9. Anti-Corruption Justice Center (ACJC). On May 2016 President Ashraf Ghani’s established the ACJC, which signaled renewed devotion to combating corruption. The ACJC is a special court system that prosecutes corruption cases in the government and military. Most recently, it found success in prosecuting Colonel Abdul Hamid for an $80,000 scam. It is a significant step towards rule of law, even if, according to the SIGAR, ACJC officials still fear the act of prosecuting the most powerful political figures.
  10. The Afghan government also promotes grassroots efforts to reduce corruption. A February 2019 Hack4Integrity event in Kabul, run by the U.N. Development Programme and Blockchain Learning Group, challenged tech-savvy Afghan youth to develop programs that would fight graft. Over 100 youth participated in the 19 team competition. Officials awarded $30,000 in prize money to the five winners and hope youthful energy will help end a nationwide problem.

The above 10 facts about corruption in Afghanistan portray a long, fraught road toward halting persistent abuses of power. However, they also provide hope for Afghanistan’s future. Progress is slow, but Afghanistan’s civil society, President Ghani’s ACJC and youth programs have opportunities to stamp out corruption. The new commander of Afghanistan’s police force, General Khoshal Sadat, has energetically devoted himself to legitimizing police activities as well. Corruption abounds, but Afghans understand that it does not have to.

– Sean Galli
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

elections in afghanistan
The presidential elections in Afghanistan constitute the first time in the country’s history where power will be transferred democratically, but that’s not to say it’s without its own troubles. Voting began April 5, 2014, a second round was held on June 14, and the final results are expected July 22.

The two main candidates were former-finance minister Ashraf Ghani and former-foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah. The preliminary results show a win on Ghani’s part, but Abdullah believes that the election had votes rigged in favor of Mr. Ghani. Abdullah claimed he would declare himself president if this issue is not further looked into. Currently, both candidates have claimed victory.

One main concern for fair voting is that although there are only 12 million eligible voters, about 20 million registered voting cards went into circulation during the elections. The United Nations had created a plan to audit about 43 percent of the votes cast, but Mr. Abdullah did not find the plan acceptable, and wished for about half of all votes to be audited instead. The Abdullah campaign also wants foreign officials to conduct the audits, or for current president Hamid Karzai to replace the head of the Election Complaints Commission, who is seen as pro-Ghani.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry took a trip to Afghanistan to act as a mediator between the candidates. Although the United States has been looking forward to President Karzai being out of office, the best way to mediate the issue is working with him.

A protester had stated: “We want the international community to take action, and we want real democracy.”

A few incentives for the Abdullah campaign to stay in check is that the United States government warned that billions of aid dollars are at stake, and German officials warned that they would cut off aid as well if Abdullah were to stage a breakaway government.

What will be affected by the winner? Once a winner is decided, the new President will have to make a security agreement with the United States, dealing with U.S. troops on the ground and their departure and the training of Afghan security forces. The newly elected leader will also help decide on other issues, such as negotiating with the Taliban, fighting poverty, halting corruption and stopping the drugs trade and the violence it entails.

The transfer is expected to happen in August. Until then, the state remains in limbo as the government and international world work toward making it a peaceful and democratic transition.

– Courtney Prentice

Sources: The New York Times 1, BBC, The New York Times 2
Photo: CNN

election in afghanistan
On Saturday June 14, Afghanis vote to elect a new president. The event could mark the first peaceful democratic transition of power in the nation’s history. The runoff election, between Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, will determine President Hamid Karzai’s successor.

The outcome of the June 14 election in Afghanistan will be essential for establishing stability. The results will also greatly affect America’s relationship with Afghanistan. This is because future U.S. military presence in the country is highly dependent upon the winner. Therefore, the election is of particular importance for Americans.

Currently, the United States has 32,000 troops in Afghanistan. All combat troops are scheduled to leave the country by December 31, 2014, according to President Barack Obama. But the United Nations as well as the U.S. would like to try and create a security agreement with the new Afghani leader. The U.S. hopes to keep some military presence in the country after the December 31 deadline in order to continue the training of the Afghani military against terrorism threats.

President Karzai refuses to sign the agreement and says that the deal should be made with the new leader. So the U.S. is now left to wait.
But the process of counting the ballots and the time needed for the new president to assume power could take months. This leaves the U.S. with very little time to form an agreement. With the impending December 31 deadline, Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, has started planning a “zero option,” which withdraws all U.S. troops by the date if an U.S.-Afghani agreement cannot be made in time.

The “zero option” plan would not only withdraw U.S. troops but also cut billions of dollars in aid. This would likely leave the country vulnerable. And because the Taliban still has strong holds within the country; the absence of aid and military support could leave more parts of the country susceptible to their control.

The Taliban threatened retaliation against all those who voted in the presidential election on June 14. They view the race as invalid because of the presence of U.S. troops in the country. But many Afghanis defied these threats by casting their ballots. In a strong turnout, an estimated 7 million Afghanis voted. There were scattered attacks around the country but no major violence erupted. The election offers a promise of a peaceful future for a nation that has been at war for 13 years.

But claims of fraud and irregularities in the election have come from both candidates. Specifically, instances of ballot stuffing and polling stations running out of ballots taint the legitimacy of the votes cast. The possibility of the losing candidate rejecting the official election results threatens the entire election process. If Afghanistan cannot establish a peaceful democratic transition, then the country risks falling back into instability.

The official preliminary results are not expected before early July. And as the ballots are being counted, both Afghanistan and the U.S. wait anxiously to see the outcome.

— Kathleen Egan

Sources: Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, NY Times
Photo: CBSNews