Transparency International released a report on anti-corruption struggle in Afghanistan last week. The report states that the Afghan government’s efforts to fight corruption were solely limited to pledges and not only the current struggle against corruption is not effective, it is also uncoordinated. The Organization, therefore, suggests that the parallel anti-corruption institutions must be revoked and one or few independent and powerful administrations ought to be created to tackle corruption.
Based on the report, Afghanistan’s National Unity Government (NUG) had made 50 anti-corruption commitments, but has delivered just a few of these commitments resulting in wasting one out of every eight dollars aided for Afghanistan. It comes at a time that the NUG believes the fight against corruption as its priority and has stressed so at several international conferences.
The NUG’s anti-corruption fight and the factors behind the NUG’s failure in this fight are issues that are analyzed here.
Corruption in Afghanistan
Since the formation of the Afghan government under Hamid Karzai, a number of domestic and international research centers have conducted many surveys to evaluate the corruption rate in this country. For instance since 2005, Transparency International has conducted surveys every years; Asia Foundation has collected people’s opinions in this regard since 2006; and in years after 2007, Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) has also conducted surveys and researches to evaluate the corruption rate in Afghanistan.
A review of the corruption-related surveys and researches in the past 15 years signify that not only the level of corruption in the country is not reduced; it has also reached new heights in 2015.
Based on the surveys of Transparency International, from 2005 to 2009, corruption increased; but from 2009 to 2011, it reduced and in 2012 and 2013, it reached its heights. In 2014, due to some anti-corruption efforts by the NUG, corruption decreased in Afghan administrations but in 2015 it augmented again.
The surveys by Asia Foundations, on the other hand, show that in peoples believe, after 2005, the level of corruption in their daily lives, their neighborhood, in local administrations in provinces and in all over Afghanistan has increased.
IWA has also released its four surveys on corruption in Afghanistan. These surveys show that in 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2014, the total value of bribe and the adults who have bribed officials are increased.
Some other administrations such as the United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) and Organization of Budget Transparency have also published researches and surveys concerning corruption which overall indicates the increased level of corruption in post-2009 years.
The NUG’s anti-corruption struggle
During the 2014 Presidential Elections, candidates for Afghan Presidency had vowed to eradicate corruption. In his electoral charter, President Ghani had also a particular argument on corruption. After the formation of the NUG, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani declared his anti-corruption policy in London Conference in 2014. The President renewed his anti-corruption commitments to European Union’s delegation in Anti-corruption Conference in May 2016. The Afghan President, later in London conference, presented his essay about the fight against corruption. Promises to tackle corruption were also made in Afghanistan’s National Peace and Development Framework prepared for Brussels Conference.
Although, at first, the NUG held some rapid and serious anti-corruption steps, which resulted in falling in the ranks from the second to the fourth most corrupted country in the world. But then the anti-corruption fight was not pursued with such seriousness and rapidity.
Overall, most steps to tackle corruption were held at the verge of international conferences. For instance, before London Conference (2014), the Kabul Bank case was opened; before Warsaw Conference (2016), government authorities’ assets were recorded and at the verge of Brussels Conference (2016), the Afghan government inaugurated the Judicial Anti-corruption Center.  Therefore, in its recent report, Transparency International stated that there is a weak willingness in the Afghan government to fight against corruption and the Afghan government’s deeds are “symbolic and political”.
The Afghan government has not yet fully received the Kabul Bank loans neither it has tried the corruption culprits in court (although some people were tried in courts but overall these prosecutions were not cohesive) nor has it brought comprehensive reforms in anti-corruption institutions (for instance, judiciary, prosecution and security sectors).
Why did the government fail in its fight against corruption?
In the past 15 years, the Afghan government has held some steps to tackle corruption, such as creating anti-corruption administrations, making anti-corruption laws and some anti-corruption efforts coincide with the formation of the NUG; but after its formation why did the NUG failed in its anti-corruption efforts, the followings are the main reasons:
- Security and political uncertainty: generally, strong and powerful central governments, which are confronted with lesser security and political instabilities, undertake serious measures against corruption. If a government was unstable in terms of security and political situation, it cannot hold serious steps against corruption because such deeds could challenge the very survival of these governments.
- Lack of strong political will: due to security and political instability, the NUG lacks strong political willingness to fight against corruption.
- Uncoordinated policies: another reason behind the NUG’s failure in its fight against corruption is lack of a coordinated anti-corruption policy. For instance, the government had arrested the culprits of Kabul Bank case, imprisoned them and seriously pursued the case, but then it released the main culprit of this case (Khalilullah Ferozi) and signed a construction contract “Smart City” with him at a ceremony where some senior government officials including Special Representative of the president in political reforms Ahmad Zia Masood and some ministers were also present. Thus, government’s determination in fight against corruption was questioned. One reason behind the uncoordinated policy of the government is creation of 17 various anti-corruption institutions which according to Transparency International have very fewer achievements. In addition, Afghanistan “lacks a comprehensive judiciary system in order to prevent, detect and prosecute corruption cases” .
- The NUG’s coalition-like structure: in this government both the winner and the loser of electoral teams of 2014 Presidential elections are gathered and therefore differences between the leaders of the two teams, over officials’ appointment and bringing reforms, has resulted in ineffectiveness of the NUG’s to fight against corruption.
 Read the full report of Transparency International here: