Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sopko Speaks, Again: Root Out Corruption in Afghanistan and the Entire State Collapses

Today's news features several stories on the DEA's $86 million flightless plane meant for counter-narcotics surveillance in the U.S.-created klepto-narco-state of Afghanistan. According to Reuters' Julia Harte writing in "U.S. anti-drug plane for Afghanistan still flightless after $86 million":
The U.S. government spent $86 million over seven years developing a counter-narcotics surveillance aircraft for Afghanistan, but the plane has never carried out a mission and is sitting idle in Delaware, a watchdog said on Wednesday. 
After years of war in Afghanistan, a global hub of opium and hashish production, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had until now largely avoided criticism for questionable spending of the sort leveled widely against the U.S. military.

But Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in a report that an aircraft purchased by the DEA and modified with tens of millions of Defense Department dollars missed every delivery deadline and remained inoperable.
This brings to mind John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), who was at the University of Pittsburgh yesterday giving a speech, "An Existential Threat: U.S. Oversight of and Responses to Corruption in Afghanistan,” at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

For years Sopko has been giving these kind of speeches on the U.S. project in Afghanistan. The government there is completely corrupt, and nothing ever changes. A rational person would conclude that corruption is therefore by design. And this is basically what SIGAR Sopko says:
Corruption was not always at the top of the U.S. agenda in Afghanistan. In fact, some would argue that it still is not given the importance it deserves. SIGAR has created an office on Lessons Learned from Afghanistan and is preparing a report on how the U.S. government understood corruption there and sought to combat it. It will show that the U.S. government initially had little understanding that corruption could threaten its entire security and state-building mission. Indeed, during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and for some years to follow, the United States partnered with abusive warlords and their militias to pursue al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and supported the installation of these warlords and their militias at high levels of the Afghan government. The United States also failed to recognize that vast sums of money injected into the Afghan economy, with limited oversight and pressures to spend, created conditions for corruption. 
Not until 2009-eight years into the reconstruction effort-did the U.S. government begin to understand the connections among a vast, interdependent web of corrupt Afghan officials, criminals, drug traffickers, and insurgents. At that time, a consensus emerged that corruption threatened our core goals: Corruption undermined the legitimacy and viability of the Afghan state, fueled grievances that strengthened the growing insurgency, and sapped resources from the reconstruction effort. 
The problem, then and now, was that combating corruption required the cooperation and political will of Afghan elites whose power relied on the very structures that anticorruption efforts sought to dismantle. While President Ghani has declared a "national jihad" on corruption, as Afghan National Security Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta told high-level U.S. officials in 2010, "corruption is not just a problem for the system of governance in Afghanistan; it is the system of governance."[1] And since corruption is embedded in the state, it is difficult to root out without destroying the state in the process.
Nothing improves in Afghanistan because the U.S.-backed government is a kleptocracy. In the West we call it neoliberalism,

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