Reports on how enormously corrupt Afghanistan is are nothing new, but the recent release of hundreds of diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks paints a number of pictures of just how overwhelming the corruption is, and how little US officials seem to be able to do about it.
One of the cables cited Agriculture Minister Asif Rahimi as the “only minister that was confirmed about whom no allegations of bribery exist,” while Health Minister Sayed Fatimie told the US that MPs wanted $1,000 each to vote in favor of his confirmation.
Most previous reports on Afghanistan, often describing the nation as the world’s most corrupt, have focused on the lower bureaucratic levels, the number of bribes needed to access even basic services, and the extortion campaigns that are pervasive among Afghan police. The cables take a decidedly higher level view, and the situation is no cleaner from the top.
The most potentially damaging revelations, however, may be comments against Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who officials call paranoid and unable “to grasp the most rudimentary principles of state-building.” Though the US has been publicly condemning Karzai off and on for years, the comments focus on Karzai’s ineptitude rather than bizarre claims of drug addiction and mental illness, which will likely fuel an angry backlash at some point, as more and more of the cables come to light.
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