Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Speaking of Corruption

It has been so long since there was a story about the Karzai family's role in corruption in Afghanistan.   Oh, it has not been that long.  Well, then ignore this story which is basically more of the same.
While the roles played by two of President Karzai’s brothers — Ahmed Wali Karzai, the power broker of Kandahar, and Mahmoud Karzai, a prominent businessman and investor in the troubled Kabul Bank — have been well documented, the extensive web of other family members has not previously been reported. Most of them lived in the United States before going to Afghanistan, leveraging the president’s position to put them at the center of a new oligarchy of powerful Afghan families.
The family that plunders together stays together, right?  I wonder if the US should simply impose a contracting rule--if a Karzai relative is involved in a company, that is sufficient for saying no, right?  That we are feeding the beast is so incredibly annoying when we know that the governance issue will be the focal point of failure.

“Karzai is convinced that we are going to abandon him,” Mr. Neumann said. “What’s his answer? To create a web of loyalties and militia commanders and corrupt families all knitted together.”
“This network,” he added, “is part of his survival mechanism.”
Usually short-term thinking is considered to be a threat to the long term, but it seems here that long term thinking (although short term profit seeking may still be important) may be a threat to both the short term and long term.  And talk about self-fulfilling prophecies--corruption as a strategy to survive a US/NATO withdrawal is precisely one of the most important factors triggering a US/NATO withdrawal.  If the West decides to leave because it is not making enough progress, and the corruption problem is inhibiting progress, then Karzai is indeed making his "feared" future happen. 
Qayum Karzai said the criticism of the family was unfair, adding that it had taken an emotional toll. “We have been on the political scene in Afghanistan for more than 100 years, and never has our name been mentioned with narcotics or wheeling or dealing,” he said. “We have always been identified with the moderate traditions of Afghanistan. So this is very heartbreaking to every family member.”
 Well, now I feel bad.  The Karzais' feelings are hurt.  Well, I feel worse about the broken hearts of the rest of the Afghans, who now wonder where the billions of dollars have gone and what will happen as the patience of the outsiders wane. 

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