Second, at least one public service … In 2009,

Second, poor governance and
corruption have been endemic problems, fuelled by the resurgence of the opium
industry, and the failure to rebuild a judicial system capable of ensuring that
the rule of law is respected. The rule of law remains pathetically weak; as a
result, for most Afghans the impressive guarantees of rights set out in the
constitution and in various statutes exist only on paper. Bribery is one of the
main contributors to this problem: judges can easily be bought. According to
Integrity Watch Afghanistan,

 

One adult in seven, i.e. an
approximate equivalent of 1,677,000 adults, experienced direct bribery in
Afghanistan in 2009. 28% of Afghan households paid a bribe to obtain at least
one public service … In 2009, the average value of the bribes among those who
paid them was 7,769 Afs (156 USD). This represents an enormous amount of money
in a country where the per capita income is 502 USD per year

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As well as funding the government’s opponents, opium
profits have supplied some of the monies with which corrupt payments can be
made, but so have lavish Western contracts given to Afghans perceived to have
helpful connections. There is little inclination at the top of the Afghan
system to address these problems. This became painfully clear when President
Karzai moved to protect a presidential associate arrested in July 2010 for
soliciting a bribe. The president rounded on the Afghan and international
agencies that had sought to bring the accused to justice: according to Mr
Karzai’s chief of staff, this was because the president wanted these units to
operate ‘within an Afghan framework’.

 

Patronage and alliances

 

This points to a third problem,
namely that Afghanistan’s political leadership has been unequal to the task of
taking the helm. President Karzai grew up in a state-free political environment
in Peshawar in the 1980s and his conception of politics is not fundamentally
concerned with policy development and implementation, but with patronage,
networking, and alliances. In late 2009, the US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl
W. Eikenberry, set this out in a cable to Washington:

 

President Karzai is not an adequate
strategic partner … Karzai continues to shun responsibility for any sovereign
burden, whether defense, governance, or development … It strains credulity to
expect Karzai to change fundamentally this late in his life and in our
relationship.

 

Tragically for Karzai, as time went
by his strengths became less and less relevant, and his weaknesses more and
more an encumbrance. This problem was aggravated by his being surrounded by a
network of self-interested and conspiratorial associ-ates, and finally
culminated in the disastrous presidential election of August 2009, in which the
monumental fraud that was used to secure Karzai a second term at the same time
undercut his legitimacy both domestically and in the eyes of Western publics.

 

 

Iraq as a fatal distraction

 

Fourth, the shift of US focus to Iraq from late 2002
deprived the Afghan theatre of oxygen at a vital moment, and encouraged a
resumption of active Pakistani

support for the Taliban. For this, former US President
Bush, Vice-President Cheney, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld bear the prime
responsibility, since they recklessly assumed that in a country such as
Afghanistan, which had experienced decades of turmoil, stability could be
attained in a matter of months. The effects of the Iraq distraction were
serious and long-lasting. In 2007, Admiral Michael G. Mullen, Chairman of the
US Joint Chiefs of Staff stated that: ‘In Afghanistan we do what we can. In
Iraq we do what we must’. No more devastating picture of Washington’s misplaced
priorities could be imagined.

 

Growing insurgency

 

Finally, and most importantly,
Afghanistan faces a vicious ongoing Taliban insur-gency. Large numbers of
Afghans live in fear, knowing that they are exposed to the insurgents’
predations and that the agencies of the state cannot or will not do much to
help them. While corruption and poor governance have discouraged many Afghans
from standing firmly by the Karzai government, and civilian casualties have
become a major public relations issue for NATO, the insurgency recommenced
before these problems became palpable. Indeed, one of the first markers of
Taliban recrudescence was on 27 March 2003, just a week after the commencement
of the US invasion of Iraq, when a Red Cross worker, Ricardo Munguia, was
murdered by the Taliban near Kandahar. The insurgency funda-mentally reflects
Pakistan’s disposition to interfere in Afghanistan’s transition in profoundly
destructive ways. In August 2007, the Pakistani President, Pervez Musharraf,
publicly admitted during a visit to Kabul that ‘There is no doubt Afghan
militants are supported from Pakistani soil. The problem that you have in your
region is because support is provided from our side’. At one level no more need
be said: as a sovereign state, Pakistan clearly has the responsibility to
prevent its territory from being used in this way. Unfortunately, it has not
done so, and mounting evidence points to duplicity on its part, with the Afghan
Taliban continuing to receive active support from military circles. For the
United States and Afghanistan, this is understandably infuriating: as of May
2010, the ‘latest

intelligence showed trucks crossing the border that were full of Taliban
combatants with all kinds of weapons packed in the back. They were being waved
through into Afghanistan to kill Americans at checkpoints controlled by the
Pakistanis’. The significance of this duplicitous behaviour is quite profound,
for, as Barfield has put it, ‘If Pakistan ever reversed its policy of support,
as it did to Mullah Omar in 2001, the insurgency in Afghanistan would be dealt
a fatal blow’. Afghanistan has been poorly governed since 2001, but it has had
to cope with a creeping invasion by its eastern neighbour.

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