Despite the initial belief that the United States would leave behind a competent governing body in Afghanistan, a new report by the Joint Chiefs of Staff found that the military contributed significantly to increased corruption in the country.
According to the Center for Public Integrity – a nonprofit investigative news outlet – senior military officers have filed a report with the Joint Chiefs walking through some of the Pentagon’s mistakes in Afghanistan. One important takeaway from the report is that corruption by public officials was a problem even at the start of the US’ presence in Afghanistan, and was made worse by American willingness to pour money into the nation without proper oversight.
“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,” the report stated.
By the end of its study, the military came away with a few important conclusions, noting that the US embrace of Afghan warlords at the start of the war helped keep in place a corrupt leadership force.
“The US’ initial support of warlords, reliance on logistics contracting, and the deluge of military and aid spending which overwhelmed the absorptive capacity of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) created an environment that fostered corruption and impeded later [anti-corruption] efforts,” the report reads.
Additionally, the report claims the US was late to understanding the nature of Afghan corruption and Western groups lacked the will and coordination to resolve the problem as time went on.
As a result, the outcome in Afghanistan was “the expenditure of millions of dollars with almost no oversight or alignment with other … [U.S. government] efforts.”
This was a problem noted previously in other government surveys as well. As RT reported in January, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction found that none of the country’s 16 ministries could be trusted to properly receive and spend aid from the United States – in nearly all cases, SIGAR found there was a high risk of the money being stolen or wasted.
Even as the US tried to implement reforms, it was met with resistance from Afghan officials. According to the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), not only did Afghan President Hamid Karzai become less “receptive” to anti-corruption efforts and implement “illusory” reform, but some officials even took “countermeasures” -- such as moving their resources out of the country. With the US unwilling to make rooting out corruption a precondition to receiving aid, the problem was left to fester.
“We never really understood the problem … We were naïve,” said Lt. Gen. Nick Carter, the Western forces’ deputy commander and incoming British Army Chief of Staff, according to CPI. “We had a role in contributing to corruption, and that was because of the way we spent our money, because of the way we contracted, and because of our logistics system.”