Corruption in Afghanistan has quantifiably doubled since 2007 according to a survey by “Integrity Watch Afghanistan”, as bribes totaled approximately $1 billion USD in 2009 up from nearly $500 million in 2007, in an economy with an annual GDP of $11 billion.
It is also the number one reason the Taliban insurgency is winning recruits and why the U.S.-led coalition is failing to win local hearts and minds. One in seven Afghan now pay bribes, as bribes ranged from around $70 to obtain identity documents to $180 for access to higher education. The average bribe ran about $120 in a country where the annual per capita income is approximately $500.
“There is a clear link between the increased power of the Taliban and increased corruption in the state,” said Lorenzo Delesgues of the watchdog group that conducted the survey.
The security and justice systems ranked at the top of the list as the most corrupt institutions just as they did 2 years ago. More than 50% of the people that feel victimized by corruption in the judiciary system turn to the Taliban court system. The departments that were the most corrupt were the Interior Ministry overseeing the police, the Justice Ministry controlling courts, and Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency the National Directorate of Security (NDS).
Afghans prefer Taliban justice
Afghans would rather seek justice with the Taliban than suffer through the Afghan government’s incompetent and corrupt judicial system, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Albeit, the people would only go in front of Taliban judges to settle civil matters and not more serious crimes, considering the punishment the Taliban dish out goes well beyond even the strictest interpretations of Islamic law, such as hanging a 7 year old for allegedly spying.
“I don’t like our current government at all, and I don’t really like the Taliban, either. But I can either spend months in the government court and pay bribes, or I can go to the Taliban and have the matter settled in one day. It’s an easy choice to make,” said a construction manager in Kandahar, who also asserted that the government areas were dominated by warlords and even the Afghan National Police “have their hands out.”
A Provincial Reconstruction official in Kandahar reported that root of the problem is a dearth of competent judges, so they’re trying to run a “crash program” – a boot-leg type basic training to get 15 to 20 justices up and running in the next few months. The dilemma stems from the fact that most judges across Afghanistan lack degrees beyond high school and did concede some judges were on the take.
Yet, many of the Mullahs who serve as justices in the Taliban Islamic courts do not have degrees beyond high school either. Then again, all they need is a copy of the Qur’an and the one thing they are experts on is a literal translation of the Muslim legal code. And although they are perceived as more expeditious and not as corrupt, the Taliban have been benefiting from selling tactics such as assassinations to get the rest of the population to seek out justice within the Taliban’s shadow government.
Fueling the Insurgency
The bad news isn’t just coming out of the Taliban stronghold in Southern Afghanistan, but according to Wired a recently departed U.S. commander reports that a major portion of locals in four critical eastern provinces believe the Taliban have a stronger commitment to justice than President Hamid Karzai’s regime. He added that the U.S.-led forces are seen as “naive at best,” and “‘co-conspirators’ at worst.”
Locals consider the Taliban “morally superior” to the Taliban government according to an analysis Army Colonel Randy George, who also said the insurgents provide the population something the government doesn’t: “culturally appropriate access to justice, resources and Islamic identity.” The government was rated number one out of four when asked about the biggest obstacle to progress with Al Qaeda and the Taliban ranked last.
U.S.-led task forces tried to reach out to townsfolk to address the problem, but Colonel George and other senior officers concluded overall that the U.S. presence did more to inflame the locals than contribute to the fight against the insurgency.