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Corruption in Afghanistan

"Corruption is the existential, strategic threat to Afghanistan".
                            General John R. Allen, USMC, former COMISAF

Kleptocracy - "a term for systematic corruption and thievery
by the state or state-sanctioned corruption".
Wikipedia

"Corruption alienates key elements of the population, discredits
the government and security forces, undermines international support,
subverts state functions and rule of law, robs the state of revenue,
and creates barriers to economic growth".
DoD, Joint and Coalition Operational Analysis (JCOA), division of Joint Staff J-7,
Operationalizing Counter/Anti-Corruption Study, 2/28/2014.


Afghanistan is one of the most corrupt nations in the world. According to most international observers North Korea and Somalia rank one and two; so Afghanistan is the third most corrupt nation in the world. The former President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, was an extremely corrupt leader and was responsible for much of the dysfunction of the Afghan government. The basic form of government in Afghanistan under Karzai was known as "governance through patronage". The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and other organizations are trying to lessen the amount of corruption and the harm that it causes but progress is extremely slow - and very little progress has been made.  A huge concern among many diplomatic and military leaders is that Afghan corruption drives people to support the Taliban. Many cite corruption as the number one threat to the government of Afghanistan; with the Taliban as a lesser threat.

"Corruption of government officials could be a root cause that led to the insurgency. Providing legal guidance and assistance to the transitional government mitigates the near-term effects of corruption. Long-term measures ensure lasting success. Corruption and graft can hinder efforts to establish governance, restore rule of law, or institute economic recovery. While some level of corruption is common to many cultures, its existence can unhinge reform efforts and put the entire mission at risk. Essential tasks may include an initial response in which military forces create mechanisms to curtail corruption across government institutions. Units must decide if there is an acceptable level of corruption in the HN society".
                                                                         
Field Manual 3-24.2   9.

Afghanistans' Corruption Ranking in the World. Afghanistan consistently is ranked as one of the most corrupt nations. Year after year Afghanistan is in the top five of the world. The Corruption Perceptions Index 2013 provided by Transparency International in December 2013 ranked Afghanistan as 175th out of 177 nations; tied with Somalia and North Korea.

Types of Corruption.  There are many types of corruption that undermine the ISAF mission in Afghanistan.  Three broad categories of corruption are economic corruption, criminal and patronage networks, and petty corruption.  Economic corruption includes extortion, "tax" contracts, and significant diversion of foreign assistance from donor nations.  Criminal and patronage networks facilitate illicit drug trafficking, provide money to insurgents, and subvert the government and security institutions.  Petty corruption involves lower level government officials usually in the form of bribes.

Underlying Contributors to Corruption.  There are a lot of factors that aid the corruption process in Afghanistan.  In general, there is a lack of knowledge on how damaging corruption is to the counterinsurgency effort, lack of credibility and trust in the Afghan government, and the support that the population provides to the insurgents as a result of a corrupt governmental system.  The immense amount of money that is pushed into Afghanistan in the form of aid and development assistance is damaging because of a lack of control over what the Government of Afghanistan does with it - there are no "controls" that provide the donor nations and organizations with "leverage" to keep the corruption in check.  On one hand we (ISAF) are attempting to connect the population to the government in an effort to strengthen the authority and legitimacy of the government.  But on the other hand the Afghan government is corrupt and this risks alienating the population and strengthening the insurgency.

An American Soldiers' Definition of Corruption. On the first day of his tour in Afghanistan an American Soldier will say that "Corruption is when an Afghan general gives a high-paying job to his nephew". On the last day of his tour in Afghanistan an American Soldier will say that "Corruption is when an Afghan general doesn't give a high-paying job to his nephew".


International Organizations Combating Afghan Corruption

Corruption in Afghanistan

CJIATF-Shafafiyat.  ISAF established a task force to deal with the Afghan corruption problem.  It is called Task Force Shafafiyat (or Task Force Transparency) or more officially called Combined Joint Inter-Agency Task Force - Shafafiyat.  The task force was established by General Patreaus and at one time was headed by BG H.R. McMaster. The mission of CJIATF-Shafafiyat is to foster a common understanding of the corruption problem and plan, implement, and integrate ISAF anti-corruption efforts - to support the develop of an honest Afghan administration.  CJIATF Shafafiyat achieved initial operational capability in August 2010, with full operational capability in October 2010. This organization was closed down in the later part of 2014 (?).

Other Commanders of CJIATF-Shafafiyat. The anti-corruption effort for ISAF was headed by MG Richard Longo (as of Jan 2013). He was the commander of CJIATF-A and the Director of Task Force 2010 for a period of time. You can view his bio on the ISAF website here and on WikipediA here.

Anti-Corruption Coordination Group. This organization has been setup by the U.S. Embassy to provide strategic direction for reducing Afghan corruption. Its effectiveness will be hampered by the reluctance to withhold money from Karzai and his corrupt cronies.

Task Force 2010 (TF 2010).  In 2010 General Patraeus established a special task force to try to follow the money trail in an effort to ensure that money is spent properly.  The task force was initially headed by Read Admiral Kathleen Dussault; however her stay in Afghanistan lasted just four months and she was replaced by a junior officer.  The task force's mission is to focus on the intersection of contractor money and political power in Afghanistan and to minimize corruption related to contracting. It also is charged with preventing U.S. contract funds from ending up in enemy hands. TP 2010 operates audit, intelligence, law enforcement, and legal departments. The task force has moved its offices from Afghanistan to an air base near Doha, Qatar.

Special Investigator General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).  SIGAR has had a storied past.  It has not been viewed as an effective organization.  In fact, one of the heads of SIGAR was forced to resign by Congress.  4.  SIGAR is supposed to conduct audits of reconstruction projects and attempt to recover any US taxpayer funds.  But shoddy record keeping and poorly maintained databases of the U.S. military make this a hard task. In the past few years SIGAR has been more effective, publishing many reports, and raising the ire of ISAF and USAID with its exposure of lack of oversight by these organizations. SIGAR has become a true 'watchdog' and its reporting has been excellent - providing an unvarnished view of the real story in Afghanistan.  Visit the organization's website at www.sigar.mil.

International Contract Corruption Task Force (ICCTF). The FBI helped form this special interagency organization in 2006 to combat the immense crime problem among U.S. civilian and military contracting officials and contractors working on contracts for contingency operations. The ICCTF's members include the FBI, DCIS, SIGAR, MPFU, NCIS, and the IG offices of State and USAID.

Afghanistan Threat Finance Cell (ATFC). The ATFC began operations in 2009 to attack illicit financial networks. The ATFC has personnel that can provide financial expertise and intelligence information to other U.S. agencies. The ATFC is one of several agencies seeking to identify and disrupt threat finance networks that support or are associated with terrorism and the Afghan insurgency. DoD and the DEA are two of several agencies working with the ATFC.

High Office for Oversight and Anti-Corruption (HOOAC)

The Afghans have established the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption or HOOAC.  However, in reality, the Afghans that currently run the country do not want to see their the pipeline of money that flows from the donor nations to their Swiss or Dubai bank accounts interrupted.  So this "high office" really is not doing much to fix the corrupt situation in Kabul. 1.

MSI. An "implementing partner" that is being provided money to help the Afghan's fix their corruption problem is Management Systems International or MSI.  The project the MSI is engaged in is to help build a strong institution that will help the HOOAC build their institution and capabilities.  2.

Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA)
www.iwaweb.org, www.facebook.com/iwaweb.org. Integrity Watch is an Afghan civil society organization committed to increase transparency, accountability, and integrity in Afghanistan. The mission of Integrity Watch is to put corruption under the spotlight through community monitoring, research, and advocacy. IW mobilizes and trains communities to monitor infrastructure projects, publice services, courts, and extrative industries.

Afghanistan has a poor history of combating corruption.  President Karzai appointed a childhood friend to head the Afghan anti-corruption agency.  In 2007 it was revealed that the official - Izzatullah Wasifif - spent 3 1/2 years in a U.S. prison for selling $2 million worth of drugs in the late 1980s.  3.

The Afghan National Police (ANP) are a big part of the corruption problem.  Most Afghans view the country's police forces as corrupt. A recent annual poll conducted by the United Nations reveals that over half of Afghans see the national police as corrupt.

Despite ISAF's best efforts the anti-corruption campaign has realized dismal results.  Afghan governmental officials have escaped prosecution, organizations set up to investigate corruption have been dismantled or hobbled, and political interference has aided corrupt officials which in turn has provided more support to the Taliban and the insurgency.

Karzai and Corruption.  Almost no one is more corrupt than President Karzai.  Although he will make passionate speeches about how corruption needs to be eliminated he continues to be the most corrupt official in Afghanistan.  In addition, he condemns U.S. efforts to reduce corruption as an attempt to meddle in Afghan sovereign affairs. On the rare occasion that an Afghan official does try to fight corruption he will find himself quickly dismissed (fired) by Karzai.  5.

"Where are my sweets?" If you want anything done by an Afghan government servant at district, provincial, or ministerial level then a bribe is paid. Upon requesting a service from a government official the Afghan citizen is confronted with a question - "Where are my sweets?". And he doesn't mean a box of chocolate.

Website - I Paid a Bribe.  Perhaps one way to help stem the plague of corruption in Afghanistan is to follow the example of some anti-corruption activists in India and Kenya.  They have published websites where citizens can share their experiences with bribery.  See www.ipaidabribe.or.ke and www.ipaidabribe.com8.

Corruption Incident Reporter. Afghanistan Justice Organization (AJO). It is now possible to report a corruption incident anonymously online using the AJO website. The format allows the user to report a bribe request or payment, abuse of power by government official, corruption related to a tender or procurement procedure, ghost or fake workers, fraud in an election process and other incidents of corruption.
http://afghanjustice.org/report-corruption/

Efshagar. This website allows Afghan citizens to anonmously report a corrupt act by a government official on the website or via SMS. Integrity Watch Afghansitan helped establish the website. See www.efshagar.af.

Anti-Corruption Council. In April 2016 President Ghani formed an Anti-Corruption Council formed with government officials from the Justice Ministry, the Attorney General's office, and other government oversight bodies. The council, chaired by Ghani, will coordinate a review of thousands of corruption cases. An existing oversight organization, the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption (HOOAC) had its powers diminished in 2015; which resulted in international donors threatening to cut off funds for the HOOAC. The HOOAC has representation on this new Antin-Corruption Council. 10.


Resources on Corruption in Afghanistan

Afghanistan High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption (HOOAC)
www.anti-corruption.gov.af

Anti-Corruption Capacity Building
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
www.unodc.org/afghanistan/en/anti-corruption.html

International Anti-Corruption Day - December 9th. United Nations Campaign.
www.anticorruptionday.org

Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring & Evaluation Committee (MEC)
The Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC) was created after the need for independent monitoring and evaluation of anti-corruption efforts in Afghanistan was identified.
http://mec.af/en/

Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR)
www.sigar.mil

Countering Corruption in Afghanistan
www.afgcountercorruption.com

Counter- and Anti-Corruption. NATO Joint Analysis & Lessons Learned Centre.
www.jallc.nato.int/newsmedia/docs/factsheet_corruption.pdf


Publications and Reports on Corruption in Afghanistan

2017

UNAMA, Afghanistan's Other Battlefield: The Fight Against Corruption, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, April 2017.
https://unama.unmissions.org/corruption

Felbab-Brown, Vanda, How predatory crime and corruption in Afghanistan underpin the Taliban insurgency, Brookings Institute, April 18, 2017.
www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2017/04/18/how-predatory-crime-and-corruption-in-afghanistan-underpin-the-taliban-insurgency/

2016

SIGAR, Afghanistan's High Office of Oversight, SIGAR-16-60-SP, September 19, 2016.
https://www.sigar.mil/pdf/special%20projects/SIGAR-16-60-SP.pdf

SIGAR, Corruption in Conflict: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, September 2016.
https://www.sigar.mil/pdf/lessonslearned/SIGAR-16-58-LL.pdf

OSCE, OSCE Handbook on Combating Corruption,  Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, April 20, 2016. This 244-page report is an invaluable handbook for someone combating corruption and can be a great tool for training events and seminars.
www.pksoi.org/document_repository/Handbook-Guide/OSCE_Handbook_on_Combating_Corrruption_(20-Apr-2016)-CDR-1643.pdf

UNDP, A Transparent and Accountable Judiciary to Deliver Justice for All, United Nations Development Program, April 8, 2016. A 62-page report on justice and corruption in several countries to include Afghanistan.
http://www.asia-pacific.undp.org/content/rbap/en/home/library/democratic_governance/transparent-n-accountable-judiciary.html

2015

TI, National Integrity System Assessment Afghanistan 2015, Transparency International, February 16, 2016. A sustained effort must be made to tackle corruption in Afghanistan but . . .
www.transparency.org/whatwedo/publication/afghanistan_2015_national_integrity_system_assessment

USAID. Practioner's Guide for Anticorruption Programming, United States Agency for International Development, January 2015.
https://www.pksoi.org/document_repository/Handbook-Guide/USAID_Anticorruption_Programming_Guide_(Jan-2015)-CDR-1270.pdf

Transparency International UK, Corruption: Lessons from the international mission in Afghanistan, TI identifies nine reasons the international community was slow to develop a response to corruption and provides recommendations for furture interventions where assistance is provided. This Adobe Acrobat PDF is 72 pages long and 2 MBs big.
www.transparency.org/files/content/pressrelease/2015_Corruption_Lessons_From_Afghanistan_EN.pdf

Isaacs, Arnold R., "Can Corruption Lose Wars?", Cicero Magazine, February 19, 2015. Article explains how costly corruption is in a counterinsurgency campaign.
http://ciceromagazine.com/features/can-too-much-corruption-lose-wars/

2014

Integrity Watch Afghanistan, National Corruption Survey 2014, 2014.
www.iwaweb.org/ncs/_2014/docs/national_corruption_survey_2014_english.pdf

Holdren, Richard J., Stephen F. Nowak, and Fred J. Klinkenberger, Jr., "Dealing with Corruption: Hard Lessons Learned in Afghanistan", Joint Forces Quarterly 75, September 30, 2014. National Defense University (NDU).
http://ndupress.ndu.edu/Portals/68/Documents/jfq/jfq-75/jfq-75_143-148_Holdren-et-al.pdf

2013

SIGAR, U.S. Anti-Corruption Efforts: A Strategic Plan and Mechanisms to Track Progress are Needed in Fighting Corruption in Afghanistan", Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, SIGAR-SP-13-9, September 2013.
www.sigar.mil/pdf/alerts/SIGAR-SP-13-9.pdf

Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
A letter by the head of SIGAR to congressional committees outlining fees illegally imposed by the Afghan government on contract firms providing U.S. funded reconstruction, development, and support for military operations, June 28, 2013.
www.sigar.mil/pdf/alerts/SIGAR%20Alert%2013-3.pdf

Contracting With the Enemy, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), Audit 13-6, April 2013.  Accessed here.

NATO, Counter- and Anti-Corruption,  Extract of report by NATO's Joint Analysis and Lessons Learned Centre, June 27, 2013.
http://www.jallc.nato.int/newsmedia/docs/jallc_report_corruption_releasable.pdf

Sharma, Vivek S. "Give Corruption a Chance", The National Interest, November 1, 2013. A very interesting perspective on corruption in Afghanistan and other nations.
http://nationalinterest.org/article/give-corruption-chance-9276

2012

UNODC, Corruption in Afghanistan: Recent patterns and trends, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, December 2012.
www.unodc.org/documents/frontpage/Corruption_in_Afghanistan_FINAL.pdf

Kietzer, Kari Kay, Successes and Challenges in Afghan Anti-Corruption Efforts, CJIATF-Shafafiyat, HQ ISAF, November 2012.
www.afghanwarnews.info/articles/afghan-anti-corruption-efforts-kietzer-nov12.html

Mobile Payments, Conflict and Corruption in Afghanistan, Blumentstock, Callen and Ghani, Berkeley University, April 27, 2012.  Accessed here.

Corruption & Anti-Corruption Issues in Afghanistan, Civil-Military Fusion Centre, February 2012.  Accessed here on ReliefWeb.int Feb 2012.

2011

The Strategic Impact of Corruption in Afghanistan.  Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) Information Paper.  June 19, 2011. Document posted on publicintelligence.net website and accessed here on February 2012.

2010

Anti-corruption Strategic Plan. By the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan High Office of Oversight and Anti-corruption.  December 2010.  An Adobe Acrobat PDF accessed here on the U.S. Army Peacekeeping & Stability Operations Institute, Carlisle, Pennsylvania on Feb 2012.

How America Corrupted Afghanistan: Time to Look in the Mirror.  By Anthony H. Cordesman, Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), September 8, 2010.  Accessed here on CSIS web site on February 2012.

Corruption in Afghanistan.  United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, January 19, 2010.  Accessed here February 2012.

UNODC, Corruption in Afghanistan: Bribery as reported by the victims, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, January 2010.
www.unodc.org/documents/ . . . Afghanistan-corruption-survey2010-Eng.pdf

2009

Report on HOOAC by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) published on December 16, 2009 and accessed here on the SIGAR website (Feb 2012).  (Adobe Acrobat PDF).

Preventing Corruption in Humanitarian Operations.  By Transparency International.  A handbook aimed at managers and staff of humanitarian agencies in the headquarters and in the field.  How to identify the corruption risks and how to minimize those risks.


 

Read a collection of news articles about corruption in the Afghan government and Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).

News about Afghan Corruption

 


 


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Endnotes

1.  See a news article that is very critical of the HOOAC.  "Afghan anti-corruption watchdog threatens to quit", The Guardian, December 4, 2011 accessed here Feb 2012.

2.  Management Systems International, a subsidiary of Coffey International, LTD, is assisting in the anti-corruption effort by helping the HOOAC develop its institutions and processes.  See "Supporting Afghanistan's High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption" on the MSI webpage.  Accessed February 2012 here.

3.  Numerous news reports support this allegation.  See "How anti-corruption chief once sold heroin in Las Vegas", The Guardian, August 27, 2007 accessed here February 2012.

4.  Congress brings down top auditor of Afghan corruption.  Wrong target?  The Christian Science Monitor, January 12, 2011.

5.  Fazel Ahmed Faqiryar, a former deputy attorney general, was fired by President Karzai for being too aggressive in his anti-corruption activities.  See "Graft-Fighting Prosecutor Fired in Afghanistan", The New York Times, August 28, 2010.

6.  See "Military's Anti-Corruption Chief Leaves Afghanistan After Just Four Months". Wired.com Danger Room, September 21, 2010.

7.  See "UN poll: Afghan police still corrupt but improving".  The Guardian, January 31, 2012.

8.  See "Web site strives to fight corruption in Kenya", The Washington Post, February 6, 2012.

9. Quote from FM 3-24.2, Tactics in Counterinsurgency, Chapter 7, "Stability Operations Considerations in Counterinsurgency", April 21, 2009, page 7-17. FM can be accessed here.

10. News of the Anti-Corruption Council is reported in a Wall Street Journal article published on April 25, 2016 entitled "Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Starts Effort to Fight Corruption".
www.wsj.com/articles/afghan-president-ashraf-ghani-starts-new-body-to-fight-corruption-1461594413

 


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