US officials admit Washington fuelled corruption in Afghanistan by pumping in money and then chose to ignore consequences
When Hamid Karzai became an elected leader of Afghanistan in 2001 following the collapse of the Taliban in the post-9/11 world, the West was ecstatic that it succeeded in importing democracy in one of the most violence-hit countries. But the honeymoon didn’t last long. The Karzai government lost prominence and proved to be an entity living more on steroids provided by the US. Karzai, whose tenure concluded in September 2014, admitted later that the CIA had delivered bags full of cash to his office, calling it "nothing unusual".
The then US leadership of Barack Obama escalated the war in Afghanistan and the Congress continued to approve billions of additional dollars. The promise was to crack down on corruption in the new regime in Kabul, but in reality, Washington ignored the factual consequences and allowed corruption to get stronger in the country, according to several confidential government interviews obtained by The Washington Post.
US ignored offenders just because they were friends
According to the interviews, key people related to the war said the US ignored offenders because they were its friends. In words that sounded alarming, these people held the US responsible for fuelling corruption through reckless distribution of money, without thinking much about the consequences, the Post reported.
The American officials were “so desperate to have the alcoholics to the table, we kept pouring drinks, not knowing (or) considering we were killing them,” an unidentified State Department official told government interviewers.
The interviews pointed out that the war zones of Afghanistan were flooded with aid and defense contracts, much more than the impoverished country could absorb. Backed by American taxpayers, the excess was so much that the opportunities for bribery and fraudulence became endless.
'US was no solution to Afghanistan's corruption but rather fuelled it with money'
The scenario was well defined by Barnett Rubin, a former senior State Department adviser and a New York University professor. He told government interviewers that it was believed that corruption is a problem in Afghanistan to which the US is a solution. "But there is one indispensable ingredient for corruption — money — and we were the ones who had the money,” he said.
The CIA went on doling out money to all sorts of people — warlords, political leaders and even religious leaders — the interviews revealed. The US kept on pumping in money thinking that it would bring stability to the country, but it was far from an effective strategy.
The Post cited the words of Gert Berthold, a forensic accountant who worked for the military task force in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2012. He said that he had helped analyze 3,000 Defense Department contracts amounting to a whopping $106 billion to see who was benefitting. The study found that 40 percent of the funds had ended up with the insurgents, criminal syndicates and corrupt local officials in Afghanistan, the Post added.