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.