Second, poor governance andcorruption have been endemic problems, fuelled by the resurgence of the opiumindustry, and the failure to rebuild a judicial system capable of ensuring thatthe rule of law is respected. The rule of law remains pathetically weak; as aresult, for most Afghans the impressive guarantees of rights set out in theconstitution and in various statutes exist only on paper. Bribery is one of themain contributors to this problem: judges can easily be bought. According toIntegrity Watch Afghanistan, One adult in seven, i.e. anapproximate equivalent of 1,677,000 adults, experienced direct bribery inAfghanistan in 2009.
28% of Afghan households paid a bribe to obtain at leastone public service … In 2009, the average value of the bribes among those whopaid them was 7,769 Afs (156 USD). This represents an enormous amount of moneyin a country where the per capita income is 502 USD per year As well as funding the government’s opponents, opiumprofits have supplied some of the monies with which corrupt payments can bemade, but so have lavish Western contracts given to Afghans perceived to havehelpful connections. There is little inclination at the top of the Afghansystem to address these problems.
This became painfully clear when PresidentKarzai moved to protect a presidential associate arrested in July 2010 forsoliciting a bribe. The president rounded on the Afghan and internationalagencies that had sought to bring the accused to justice: according to MrKarzai’s chief of staff, this was because the president wanted these units tooperate ‘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 oftaking the helm. President Karzai grew up in a state-free political environmentin Peshawar in the 1980s and his conception of politics is not fundamentallyconcerned with policy development and implementation, but with patronage,networking, and alliances. In late 2009, the US Ambassador to Afghanistan, KarlW. Eikenberry, set this out in a cable to Washington: President Karzai is not an adequatestrategic partner … Karzai continues to shun responsibility for any sovereignburden, whether defense, governance, or development … It strains credulity toexpect Karzai to change fundamentally this late in his life and in ourrelationship. Tragically for Karzai, as time wentby his strengths became less and less relevant, and his weaknesses more andmore an encumbrance.
This problem was aggravated by his being surrounded by anetwork of self-interested and conspiratorial associ-ates, and finallyculminated in the disastrous presidential election of August 2009, in which themonumental fraud that was used to secure Karzai a second term at the same timeundercut 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 2002deprived the Afghan theatre of oxygen at a vital moment, and encouraged aresumption of active Pakistani support for the Taliban. For this, former US PresidentBush, Vice-President Cheney, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld bear the primeresponsibility, since they recklessly assumed that in a country such asAfghanistan, which had experienced decades of turmoil, stability could beattained in a matter of months. The effects of the Iraq distraction wereserious and long-lasting. In 2007, Admiral Michael G.
Mullen, Chairman of theUS Joint Chiefs of Staff stated that: ‘In Afghanistan we do what we can. InIraq we do what we must’. No more devastating picture of Washington’s misplacedpriorities could be imagined. Growing insurgency Finally, and most importantly,Afghanistan faces a vicious ongoing Taliban insur-gency. Large numbers ofAfghans 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 tohelp them. While corruption and poor governance have discouraged many Afghansfrom standing firmly by the Karzai government, and civilian casualties havebecome a major public relations issue for NATO, the insurgency recommencedbefore these problems became palpable.
Indeed, one of the first markers ofTaliban recrudescence was on 27 March 2003, just a week after the commencementof the US invasion of Iraq, when a Red Cross worker, Ricardo Munguia, wasmurdered by the Taliban near Kandahar. The insurgency funda-mentally reflectsPakistan’s disposition to interfere in Afghanistan’s transition in profoundlydestructive ways. In August 2007, the Pakistani President, Pervez Musharraf,publicly admitted during a visit to Kabul that ‘There is no doubt Afghanmilitants are supported from Pakistani soil.
The problem that you have in yourregion is because support is provided from our side’. At one level no more needbe said: as a sovereign state, Pakistan clearly has the responsibility toprevent its territory from being used in this way. Unfortunately, it has notdone so, and mounting evidence points to duplicity on its part, with the AfghanTaliban continuing to receive active support from military circles. For theUnited States and Afghanistan, this is understandably infuriating: as of May2010, the ‘latest intelligence showed trucks crossing the border that were full of Talibancombatants with all kinds of weapons packed in the back.
They were being wavedthrough into Afghanistan to kill Americans at checkpoints controlled by thePakistanis’. 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 dealta fatal blow’. Afghanistan has been poorly governed since 2001, but it has hadto cope with a creeping invasion by its eastern neighbour.