Afghanistan corruption: when do we recognize that we are the problem? by mattsteinglass
April 10, 2009, 8:55 am
Filed under: Afghanistan, Vietnam

Excellent feature by Richard Oppel Jr. in the NYT on corruption in the Afghan police force. There’s a crucial telltale moment here:

“The corruption here is a bigger threat to a stable government than the Taliban,” said First Sgt. John Strain, the senior noncommissioned officer on the American unit training the Ghazni police.

“If we stay here another year, or another 50 years, I think it’ll probably only take two to three years after we are gone until it reverts to the way it was right before we got here,” he added.

Strain takes it for granted that the American presence is what’s preventing police corruption. That’s not true. The police are corrupt because they have no need to establish popular legitimacy, because the government they serve is propped up by foreign forces and sustained on foreign aid. It’s the same dynamic as South Vietnam. The Taliban, like the Viet Cong, are not corrupt because they need to build popular legitimacy to survive. The more US troops prop up the government, and the more American aid pours in, the more feckless and corrupt the government will become. The American presence isn’t reducing corruption in Afghanistan. It’s causing it.



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