Afghans point finger at US: Who’s corrupt now?

Published: November 16, 2010

Funds continue to be sought, but there is no transparency.

Many Afghans, from government officials and parliamentarians to the common man are disgruntled with the US officials relentlessly accusing them of being corrupt – while ignoring their own government’s fraud and misappropriations in the $56 billion development budget approved by the Congress for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Afghans deem US responsible for corrupting their society.

For Obama’s administration, ‘corruption warnings’ are a new blackmail tool to use against the Karzai government. There has been constant rhetoric to “eradicate corruption” and “stop misusing US tax payers’ money,” without realising that only 20% of the allocated funds are at the disposal of the Afghan government while 80% are utilised by the US Department of State, Defence and USAID. These three departments rely extensively on private contractors for the implementation of various projects, ranging from reconstruction of Afghanistan, eradicating drugs, training of Afghan security forces and officials and providing security to Nato supply convoys.

Since 2001, the US congress has appropriated nearly $56 billion for the reconstruction funds of Afghanistan, which cannot be tracked down. It has either been wasted, stolen or abused.

Missing records

There is absolutely no record of the amount utilised from 2001 to 2006 except for the vague documentation of $17.7 billion spent during the financial year 2007 – 2009, which only identifies the 7000 contractors hired to implement the projects – but does not evaluate the projects. Therefore, there is no guarantee if the US tax payers’ money amounting to $56 billion is fairly spent or abused.

Bush’s government after eight years of engagement in Afghanistan established the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) in 2008 “to conduct independent and objective audits, inspections, and investigations on the use of taxpayer dollars and related funds”.

Even the Office of the Special Inspector General is unable to track down the money spent during 2001 to 2006. It recently released a report on the “waste, fraud and abuse” of $17.7 billion (spent during the financial year 2007 – 2009) of the total reconstruction fund of $56billion.

The report is essentially a document holding the US responsible for the corruption in Afghanistan. “The large US investment in Afghanistan remains at risk of being wasted or subject to waste, fraud and abuse,” reads the document.

Who benefits from America’s wars?

65 per cent of the $17.7 billion has been channelled through the Department of Defence, which hired largely those companies who are essentially part of the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). These huge corporations depend mostly or entirely on the Pentagon for their profits and have hugely benefited from the US wars.

It has been a known fact that Bush-Cheney administration had direct financial interest in these companies. Vice President Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton for over five years that profited the most out of the Iraq war.

Some of the largest defense contractors belonging to the Military Industrial Complex hired by the Defence Department, for Afghanistan are DynCorp, Black Water (Xe Services), Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Louis Berger and Bearing Pont.

It is believed that some companies like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon draw close to 100 per cent of their business from defence contracts.

Since last year, more defence contractors belonging to the MIC have been added to the list to benefit from the war in Afghanistan. Along with the Department of Defence, the State Department also supports the companies belonging to the complex.

Imagine the billions of dollars DynCorp has earned in the past ten years, considering $1.8 billion it earned in two years from a single project of drug eradication, which was administered by State Department. DynCorp is involved in multiple projects in Afghanistan.

US wars are largely dictated by the MIC. President Eisenhower in his farewell address on 17 January 1961 warned the US nation against this complex to never let it “endanger our liberties or democratic process. We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

The war in Afghanistan could have been avoided

Several diplomats in Kabul believe that the war in Afghanistan could have been avoided if it wasn’t supported by the powers associated with MIC. United States could have followed the policy of “reconciliation and reintegration” in 2001, that it is compelled to follow now. But even now the efforts for the reconciliation with Taliban are constantly being disrupted by the strategy adopted by the Department of Defence.

As the war-oriented economy brings advantages to some powers in the US, some elements in Afghanistan who oppose reconciliation with Taliban are benefiting immensely from the situation – living the lavish life style which they couldn’t afford otherwise.

Besides the Military Industrial Complex, there is also the intelligence complex which has been playing a greater role in corrupting the Afghan society since 2001, whose billions of dollars of expenditure has never been accounted for.

The intelligence complex’s profligate distribution of boxes and suitcases of cash amongst the different segments of Afghan society – Afghan media, NGOs and allegedly government officials – has also encouraged other countries. India is one of the countries which has taken a leaf out of the CIA’s book.

Such notorious tactics used by powerful elements of the US system are further deteriorating the Afghan society and undermining the long term goals “to develop governing capacity of Afghans and foster economic development.”

Lack of transparency

This is still not the complete picture of US corruption and lack of oversight of reconstruction funds – meant for achieving long term goals in Afghanistan. There is no transparency even in the salary support provided to the Afghan government employees and technical advisors since 2002. The US government is unable to determine the amount it has been paying, the identity and the total number of recipients. Since the number and identity of the recipients is not clear the salaries can go to anyone in anyone’s name.

The audacity of the Obama administration is that with the deteriorating economy and historic unemployment in the US, it has requested for an additional $16.2 billion, which would bring the funding for reconstruction of Afghanistan to more than $72 billion.

The additional funds are more likely to be spent to achieve the hidden goals of some powers than the long term ‘stated’ goals of US government in Afghanistan


Iman Hasan

A journalist based in Kabul who writes on politics and society.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Naseer Hussain

    An analysis from a very objective and clear mind. The corruption in procurement departments is not something new. During the VietNam war( when I happened to be there as a student) an ordinary waist belt was supplied to the G.Is at 35$ a piece while its price in the market was less than 3$ a piece. Most of the news channels reported this obvious theft but after a few days the case was hushed up,and there were no further news as the media was overtaken by the notorious MELOYE incident when a trigger happy captain of the had ordered a cold blooded massacre of the Meloye villagers.
    I also had the good fortune of teaching a few courses at the universities of Kabul and Nangarhar. I must admit that the U.S Aid did a tremendous job in the education sector but some other organizations brought a bad name to the U.S efforts in that sector. A project supported by some strange worded organization came up with recommendations ,related to wheat production,three times more than the per acre production in U.S.The lady incharge of the NGO had the guts to say that this could be “doubled if the Afghans work more harder”.Recommend

  • Sardar Alam Khan

    US, always has been a corrupt, insincere, and hypocrite nation, however it overlooks its own flaws and it is deeply concerned with flaws in the outside world. Now it’s keeping an eye on China and it has termed it, ” bad guys of the era”, for no reason. May be the reason is that China is going to be a threat to US economy and its Imperialism.

  • Mohammad Sadiq

    Excellent article. US is a first world country with third world corruption problems. However, the “free” US media sees no evil, hear no evil. Recommend

  • Shahzad Raza

    Nicely done Iman. Your analysis on corruption in Afghanistan carries weight. Corruption is one of the serious malady, Afghan government is suffering from. As Bob Woodward revealed in his book how CIA kept Karzai half-brother on its payroll paying him millions of dollars every month.
    But I would suggest you keep a look on Congress over-sight committees. You would get tonnes of material on this for your next articles.
    Also do write on the plight of Afghan people, as they are the direct victims of this ongoing nepotism and corruption.

    Good work keep it up. Make us proud.Recommend

  • asima

    i liked this one even better than the last one…enjoyed reading it:)Recommend

  • parvez

    Not a bad article. In your last para ‘ hidden goals of some powers’ did not come across
    well. It was neither here nor there.Recommend

  • http://India G. Din

    @Sardar Alam Khan
    “…US, always has been a corrupt, insincere, and hypocrite nation, however it overlooks its own flaws and it is deeply concerned with flaws in the outside world. ”
    Substitute Pakistan or any other country in place of US in the above quote. It will still be true!Recommend

  • Sardar Alam Khan

    @G.Din: If u ask me to substitute Pakistan instead of US, that would be rational as I am a Pakistani and you seem to be an American. However, if you say that I put some other nation instead of US, it means you have no empathy for other countries. That’s the problem with American. She compromises over ethical values and conscience to her purpose served. :-)Recommend