Corruption levels are higher than ever in Afghanistan and Hamid Karzai has been quick to blame the U.S. President Karzai claims the Western allies have been complicit in the graft, and he might be right.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has pointed to the buying of petroleum, oil and lubricants as a hotbed of corruption. In October, a U.S. Army sergeant pleaded guilty to allowing the theft of $1.5 million of fuel from a base. In August, another Army sergeant was caught taking bribes in exchange for allowing fuel to be siphoned off a military base.
SIGAR also discovered that financial records covering $474 million of fuel sales over five years have been destroyed, making it impossible to trace where the fuel and money actually went.
A 2010 report by influential military analyst Anthony H. Cordesman found that U.S practices allowed huge amounts of money to flow into Afghanistan with little control and weak oversight.
Cordesman recommended that the U.S “make the public prosecution, fining, or debarment of U.S. contractors a high priority. Afghans (and U.S. contractors) need to see public and high profile cases where U.S. contractors are held accountable.” His report can be downloaded in pdf here.
Despite the failings of U.S. presence in Afghanistan, Karzai and his government aren’t faultless. In June, the president came under fire for awarding a 25-year oil extraction contract to a company owned by his notorious cousins, Rashid and Rateb Popal. This week, a top Afghan governor and his administration came under fire for allegedly collecting taxes illegally from a border crossing with Pakistan and trafficking narcotics.
There’s plenty of blame to go around for Afghanistan’s corruption. But solutions to the problem seem harder than ever to find.
Melanie Lansakara is a researcher for the FCPA Blog members area.