Afghanistan's Anti-Corruption Push a 'Positive Step' But...


The government of Afghanistan is making some progress in its battle against rampant, long-standing corruption, but has a very long way to go, according to a new U.S. watchdog report.

"Although the Afghan government has begun to demonstrate to its own people and the international community its commitment to fighting corruption, it must institutionalize its commitment by providing necessary support to its anti-corruption bodies and ensuring that anti-corruption laws are strongly enforced," reads the report (PDF) from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which was sent to lawmakers last week. "The Afghan government has made some progress in combatting corruption within its government, including creating transparency laws and advertising civil service positions. But it is unlikely that lasting change will be realized until the Afghan government commits to fighting corruption without reservations. For even if powerful individuals are convicted of corruption, if their sentences are not upheld and carried out, they will not truly be held responsible for their crimes."

The report also rapped the Afghan government for failing to protect reformers and whistleblowers, creating a "climate of corruption within the Afghan government that will endure."

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The Afghan Ambassador to the U.S., Hamdullah Mohib, said in April that since late 2014 the Afghan government has given "top priority to rooting out the corruption, abuse of power, dysfunction and poor leadership that was literally crippling and demoralizing our security forces, increasing casualties, and inhibiting our ability take the fight to the enemy."

"The reforms have included sweeping changes in leadership, from ministers, deputy ministers, generals and corps commanders; the prosecution of corrupt, high-level military and police personnel via the Anti-Corruption Justice Center; and implementing proper inventory and procurement processes to make sure that troops on the front lines are well-equipped and well-trained," he wrote in an Op-Ed for The National Interest.

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The problem of corruption among public officials is a centuries-old one in Afghanistan. But in another 2016 report, SIGAR blasted the U.S. government for its role in spewing gasoline on the fire for years.

That report said that the Americans "failed to recognize that billions of dollars injected into a small, underdeveloped country [for various projects], with limited oversight and strong pressures to spend, contributed to the growth of corruption."

From ABC News' coverage of the 2016 report:

By 2009, ‘U.S. civilian and military leaders became increasingly concerned that corruption was fueling the insurgency by financing insurgent groups and stoking grievances that increased popular support for these groups,’ the report says. The U.S. shifted its focus to fighting corruption, but by then there were ‘entrenched criminal patronage networks’ to contend with — and an incredible amount of money.

The report notes that in fiscal year 2012, the U.S. military contract obligations for services in Afghanistan, ‘including transportation, construction, base support, translation/interpretation,’ was approximately $19 billion. That year Afghanistan’s entire gross domestic product was estimated to be $20.5 billion.

[...] Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker is quoted in the 2016 report as saying, ‘The ultimate failure of our efforts ... wasn’t an insurgency. It was the weight of endemic corruption.’

Read More: SIGAR Report on Afghanistan's Anti-Corruption Efforts (PDF)

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