Ben W. Heineman, Jr.
Oct 2 2009, 8:26AM
Corruption--The Afghan Wild Card
As the President and other senior administration leaders hunker down in a windowless basement
room in the White House to begin debate on future U.S. policy in Afghanistan, one of the most
vexing issues will be wide-spread Afghan corruption.
The profound problem, as articulated by the Administration's military and civilian leaders, can be
simply stated. Corruption is a major cause of Afghan societal and governmental instability.
Anticorruption efforts are critical to stability and legitimacy. Such governmental legitimacy is
necessary to gain support of the divided, ethnically diverse people, and this support is a vital
complement to military action against the Taliban. So, corruption must be swiftly and effectively
But-- and here it becomes vexatious-- how can this be done by a weak, corrupt government during
a dangerous insurgency, especially after a contested election marked by serious fraud? And, if
corruption is not effectively addressed in a short time frame, does this undermine -indeed
checkmate--- the ultimate military mission as expressed by President Obama earlier this year to
disrupt, dismantle and eventually defeat al Qaeda and prevent their return to Afghanistan by
defeating the Taliban insurgency.
To understand the importance of the anticorruption effort in Afghanistan one need go no further
than actually to read the recent report sent to the President by the U.S. commander in
Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal. Although the headline from the McChrystal report was
his request for more troops, its deeper importance was his criticism of past U.S./NATO policy and
his definition of the "problem."
Read his words on how central corruption is to his redefinition of the core issues which U.S.
Afghan policy must address.
• "We face not only a resilient and growing insurgency; there is also a crisis of confidence among
Afghans--in both their government and the internationa