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Fresh Warning on Corruption in Afghanistan

US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan’s Reconstruction says corruption in Afghanistan is threatening the country’s future and the US has no viable and effective anti-corruption strategy there despite having spent an unprecedented $104 billion of American taxpayers’ money. According to John Sopko, the United States has spent $8bn in fighting opium trade and cultivation in the country, activities which are a main source of funding for the militant groups fighting Afghan and American troops. Earlier the US top inspection authority for reconstruction of Afghanistan had warned that hard-gained achievements of the past decade would be in danger of being lost if the widespread corruption is not curbed. Sopko highlighted the deadlocked presidential election, saying that “the crisis spawned from corruption” and threatens the future of the country.
The warning came at a time when the collective efforts on fighting corruption and fraud are forgotten amidst presidential election debacle. The deadlocked election process has shifted attention away from battling corruption and building good governance. The fresh warning and reminder of the huge volume of spending by the United States in Afghanistan highlights the failed efforts for building an efficient and good government, and being able to eliminate corruption and eradicate opium.
In recent months, all attention has become focused on the ongoing political transition and presidential elections. While the US and its allied nations are involved in exit strategies, the campaign against corruption is now a forgotten mission for both the government of Afghanistan and the international community. In post-NATO Afghanistan, the government would be faced with severe challenges of insecurity and widespread corruption exacerbated by its own inability (and that of the international community) to spend the international aid to effectively fight corruption.
Like the ongoing insurgency, the prevalent corruption is undermining very existence of the Afghanistan’s good governance and political stability in the future. As Afghanistan’s real test for sustaining itself after NATO withdrawal by end of this year is whether it remains afloat economically, the country has largely failed in fighting corruption. According to the US top inspection authority in Afghanistan, the widespread corruption has affected all areas of government’s earnings, including customs and taxation, and it jeopardizes the Afghan government’s efforts to wean itself off international aid in the coming years or even decades. Corruption is so pervasive and widespread that each year Afghan ordinary citizens pay billions of dollars in bribes to government officials.
Afghanistan’s hope for self-sufficiency in finance and security along with its other commitments is closely related to its ability to enhance good governance and accountability. The only viable way for Afghanistan to gain financial self-sufficiency is to extract mineral resources, which is not possible without stemming corruption.
There is slim likelihood of Afghanistan setting a new course in fighting corruption and boost good governance. This year’s presidential election has further institutionalized fraud and corruption and will further deepen the phenomenon in the years to come. However, unless there is a resolute fight against corruption and embezzlement, there will be no progress in key areas of good governance and national development.

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