Hamid Karzai: Our Unscrupulous Partner

Last Updated on August 6, 2010.

In what seems to be almost a weekly occurrence, we are reminded just how corrupt of a partner we have in the Karzai Government.

This week is no exception.

As reported by the Washington Post, President Hamid Karzai ordered an investigation into the U.S.-backed Major Crimes Task Force, charged with rooting out corruption in the Afghan government. Karzai ordered the probe after a top adviser, Mohammad Zia Saleh, an official in the office of the national security adviser, was arrested by the Task Force for allegedly agreeing to accept a 10,000 dollar car in return for promising to shut down “the investigation of an influential government official for drug smuggling.”

Displeased that anticorruption efforts are striking so close to home, Karzai’s investigation is widely seen as his attempt to undermine one of the few offices capable of checking corruption in his government. Simply put, his buddies are feeling the heat and he wants to let them off the hook.

This latest push-back against efforts to increase the transparency and legitimacy of Afghan institutions is not the first, but follows a pattern of Hamid Karzai’s complicity in preventing accountability for the illegal dealings of his hand picked government officials. And in so doing, undermining his and our ability to win the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan people.

According to the U.S. Counter-Insurgency Manual, written by current head of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, “A COIN effort cannot achieve lasting success without the HN (host nation) government achieving legitimacy.” Legitimacy is a trait that the Karzai government does not posses, making it difficult to imagine a scenario in which our current strategy of counterinsurgency will be successful.

Afghans have felt the impact of their government’s financial malfeasance for years. According to a study by the Pentagon in April, 83% of Afghans reported that corruption affects their lives on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, 59% of Afghans identify corruption as the biggest problem facing the country. This type of activity by the Karzai government only serves to push more Afghans into the arms of the Taliban, as a study by the U.S Army shows that a majority (53%) of citizens believe the Taliban to be “incorruptible.”

The Wikileaks’ War Logs, confirm that the U.S. military knows how corrupt the Karzai government is. A 2007 report by the U.S Civil Affairs office, shows how dire the situation is, quoting a representative of the locally elected provincial council as saying, “The people of Afghanistan keep loosing [sic] their trust in the government because of the high amount of corrupted government officials…The general view of the Afghans is that the current government is worst [sic] than the Taliban.”

Although many may not admit it, our current military endeavor in Afghanistan is failing. The Afghan people know that and, increasing, so does the American public. Only when our political leaders can admit that counterinsurgency is the wrong strategy will we begin to see real improvement in Afghanistan.

August 6, 2010