Brightest minds of the West give Afghanistan another puzzle to solve

The international community is preparing Afghanistan for the upcoming withdrawal of NATO troops. First and foremost, it goes about financial aid. But the Western countries have set a hard and nearly impossible condition for Afghanistan - to get rid of the ubiquitous corruption. How the Afghan authorities will solve this truly existential problem is still unknown.

The European Union has decided to suspend the provision of assistance to the Afghan government for 20 million euros that was meant to reform the country. European ministers explained the decision with the lack of reforms in the country, as well as highly corrupt regime of Hamid Karzai.

Vygaudas Ušackas, the EU ambassador in Kabul, said that if the EU commits to supporting Afghanistan, this support will be contingent upon the government agreement on the reform of the state apparatus. He also said that the amount was part of the agreement on the financing of $60 million to provide "effective reform of the state system."

Over the last decade, the European Union provided financial support to Afghanistan in the amount of $1.2 billion. Foreign aid is the main part of the Afghan budget.

In July of this year a summit was held in Tokyo where international donors expressed their willingness to provide $16 billion to Afghanistan in 2015 in an attempt to mitigate the consequences of the withdrawal of the NATO forces. In return for this help, Kabul pledged to implement reforms in the area of ​​human rights and the fight against corruption.

Head of the Japanese Government said that there were many problems in Afghanistan, but it should be recognized that in recent years a lot has been done for the further sustainable development of the country. He promised continued support to Kabul.

By the end of 2014, the NATO troops are to completely leave Afghanistan. The responsibility for security in the country will be assigned to local security forces. However, many experts fear that Kabul cannot control the situation in the country where terrorist acts happen nearly every week. Karzai said he was ready to start negotiations with the representatives of the Taliban movement.

"The Taliban should be involved in the peace processes that occur in our country, becoming a full-fledged political force," said Hamid Karzai. "The Taliban can always achieve high office if they are chosen by the voters."

At the Tokyo conference, it was agreed that by 2015 Afghanistan would receive from donor countries 16 billion dollars. According to international assessment, this amount is required for the development of the state in the coming years. The money should pay for the rehabilitation of social and economic base in Afghanistan, and the restructuring of the system of national security. In turn, Kabul has promised to fight corruption, promote the country's democratic institutions, and protect the rights of its citizens.

Statements are a good tool when you need to get the money without which the country will not be able to exist at all, but in reality corruption engulfed all aspects of life in Afghanistan. The president of the country after the Tokyo summit issued a decree about the toughening of anti-corruption measures. This document contains 164 clauses, and is made available to all state agencies and warned that any public official who fails to comply with a presidential decree will be prosecuted.

What is really happening in the country? Obtainment of necessary documents, electrical installations, applications to court require bribes, and ordinary citizens are forced to accept that bribes are an unavoidable cost of living.

Ajmal, the owner of musical instruments store in Kabul, said that corruption in Afghanistan seized everything. "Bribery and kickbacks are a serious problem. Without bribes it is simply impossible to do anything," Ajmal complained. "Corruption starts in the streets and ends in ministries, but the government does not react."

Ajmal said that he had to pay a bribe even to get his passport. Although the National Passport Office says that a new passport is issued in two days for a fee of 700 Afghanis ($15), Ajmal had to pay $80 for his passport because the process was delayed for weeks. In Afghanistan, money speaks the loudest.

"If you have money, the judge, the prosecutor, police and court officials want to put their hands in your pocket. When you have no money, you are no use to anyone and will achieve nothing. The Government is mired in corruption," Afghan citizens complain.

While the population complains and is forced to pay bribes, Kabul officials secretly take out billions of dollars out of the country and buy expensive villas in Dubai (a brother and a cousin of President Hamid Karzai recently bought luxury apartments). Huge amounts of money are regularly exported from Afghanistan by air in suitcases and boxes. Since 2007, at least $3 billion in cash was taken out of the country. Usually, the money ends up in Dubai, a tax haven. Given that Afghanistan's GDP is only $13.5 billion, it is clear that the money flowing out of the country is corrupt. 

How realistic is it to combat corruption in Afghanistan, which now occupies the fourth place among the world's most corrupt countries? Ahmad Zia Rafat, a political analyst, shared his comments:

"There are several reasons for flourishing corruption. First is that the country is now ruled by a coalition government formed, above all, in order to achieve a balance between the influential groups of the Afghan elite. These groups seek to satisfy only their own interests, not the interests of the Afghan people.

The second is the weakness of the government. Most high-ranking officials (president, his two deputies and the government) do not have many areas of real power. These areas are living by their own rules. The government somehow agrees with these areas, but does not rule there. "

Previously, donors were not paying much attention to the level of corruption in the country, which, incidentally, also contributed to its proliferation. Perhaps, calls from abroad regarding the fight against corruption are purely ritual summons that have no specific content. Baktazh Siyaush, deputy of the Afghan parliament, believes that government measures to fight corruption are only an illusion. According to him, the president wants to show the U.S. and the international community that he is prepared for a decisive fight against corruption.

But who is he going to fight with? With the corrupt ministers whom he personally appointed, with his deputies or his brothers? This is not an order but a mere illusion of action.

American journal Foreign Policy has published a sensational article. Anne Applebaum, director of policy research think-tank Legatum Institute, recommended the West to start the fight with corruption with itself.

The author of the article criticized the European offshore banks in aiding corruption. The Western world is saying that it is concerned with the rampant corruption in Afghanistan. But the West, with its network of tax havens, is the main accomplice of corrupt schemes in the world. Sakina Yakub, head of the educational non-profit organization in Afghanistan, believes the Western companies to be the largest source of corruption in Afghanistan, especially those engaged in charity - first they spend on bribing the officials, and then leave, saying that corruption hinders their work.

Sergei Vasilenkov


Read the original in Russian


Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov