Saturday, September 27, 2008

At every level it exists

Saturday September 27, 2008

Last May I left Afghanistan with the words of the outgoing commander of International forces here assuring us that by 2011 all foreign troops will be out of here and a stable democracy would have been restored.

Driving around the capital of Kabul in the last two days reveals a city that is effectively underseige. New checkpoints dominate virtually every road that leads to any Govt building or embassy.

For the more than 5 million residents of this city, the greatest problem they face is corruption. It is a cancer that has pervaded every aspect of life here, and by all reports it goes to the almost top of Govt, and even the President has a close family member that are regularly linked to the drug trade and corruption.

The figures are beyond belief; according to the US Government Accountability Office recent report the US Govt has spent close to $16 Billion on Military and Police training since 2002. And yet out of 105 Army Units only 2 are capable of conducting their primary missions, as for the Police. The figure is zero not one unit is capable of conducting effective enforcement.

I spent some time this afternoon filming Kabul Police conducting searches of cars, and again it is a matter of what is not being done that is more damming that what is being achieved. They would not stop a car with more than one male in it, cars with more than one male regularly waved off the Police requests to pull over and continued with immunity, not one car with a woman was stopped at any stage.

I filmed for a while for a feature we are working on, then getting back into our car I asked our fixer could we go to the outskirts of Kabul and film the checkpoints as the forces checked trucks coming into the city. He said he would try but a problem would be that when we were filming the authorities would not be able to collect their bribes. I jokingly mentioned that we would pay them for the lost revenue and he thought for a moment and did not answer.

A reality check for everyone is that Afghanistan is now officially the fifth most corrupt country in the world according to the latest report issued by Transparency International. Only Haiti, Iraq, Myanmar and bottom of the list Somalia are more open to corruption.

During an interview yesterday with an ex member of the Cabinet he told us that there were reports of Govt Officials who had assets in excess of $20 million dollars and yet they were paid only a few hundred dollars a month for their services to the administration here.

You can feel the frustration of everyone in this city as they are powerless to stop this cancer as the International Community continues to pour money in here with the hope that things will get better. For a select few the benefits are astronomical and the disease of corruption filters down till there is nothing left.


Anonymous said...

We wondered when you would show up in Afghanistan as you so nicely left us hanging in your last blog. Wondering who is there with you. Will be keeping up with you and the rest of your crew. Hope you will have time to blog and send your great photos. Please be safe and know your fans are keeping up with you and hoping you well.

21stCenturyMom said...

This makes me want to cry. Obama spent a lot of air during the debate talking about how we must step up our efforts in Afghanistan. Nice to know all those tax dollars will to straight into the checking accounts of corrupt government officials.

Anyhow - it's good to hear from you. I always worry when you haven't posted for a while.

Anonymous said...

I really don't know why you do this job or even write this blog! Perhaps it is a macho/ego thing?

You are just a cameraman for christ sake yet you write like you are some undercover reporter; you had better watch what you are saying particularly writing about the things you do.....

Anonymous said...

Who's the asshole following you around making the dumb comments Mal? Whoever! Mal is the BEST cameraman going and no whimp. He's seen more action than you'll ever see and knows a heck of a lot more than you'll probably ever know. What are your credentials troll? Because you know nothing you feel free to give your opion on everything? Obviously you are either jealous as heck of Mal or you are someone with no life who belongs to the gang of idiotsthugs trying to screw up all the good blogs. You are boring. Get some new lines.

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like a little intimidation, Mr. James. This sucker must be an enemy of the war on creepy terrorism as well as our country who hasn't got guts enough to face us down one on one in broad daylight. You know the kind, Mal. They are good at intimidation but no balls when you call them out for real fight. Go Mr. James. You are doing a fantastic job.

Anonymous said...

Macho/ego thing? do I detect a problem here?or maybe I should just tell you what your problem is.. your problem is a just a CAMERAMAN(who risks his life to create awareness about the truth) who is everything you probably wanted to be and just could'nt cut it!and while you're at it why not identify yourself.also you either have'nt been around or you're one of those living in lala land.
You were obviously not taught the age old saying...if you have nothing good to say........keep quiet.
Since you're reading the blogs I hope you're read the comments this is especialy for you....