Afghan President Ashraf Ghani reportedly said the solution to combating the entrenched corruption endemic at all levels of the government in Afghanistan is to wage “national jihad,” or holy war, against it.
Graft is a “cancerous lesion” that “threatens the very being of a nation,” declared Ghani on Tuesday, The Washington Post reports.
The Afghan leader reportedly said “he intends to make this one of the government’s primary battles, noting that Afghans pay several billion dollars in bribes each year.”
He made those comments at a gathering in Kabul on Tuesday as he inches closer to his first anniversary in Afghanistan’s presidential palace.
Ghani faces a number of challenges, from political infighting and a deteriorating economy highly dependent on foreign contributions, particularly U.S.-taxpayer funding, to a Taliban resurgene that continues to terrorize the country.
Of all the problems he is facing, the Afghan leader “singled out corruption as an equally dangerous threat to his nation,” notes The Post.
Afghanistan was ranked 172nd out of 175 countries in Transparency International’s “Corruption Perception Index” last year.
According to the organization, the ranking is based on interviews of experts and businesses.
The Afghan government “is already undertaking some ‘fundamental measures’ to reduce corruption, proclaimed Ghani.
He said illicit government contracting practices, land grabbing, and narcotics production are major causes of corruption in Afghanistan.
Ghani noted that the Afghan government is investing in agriculture since most Afghans live off the land.
“The goal, he said, is to make Afghanistan — consistently ranked among the world’s largest exporters of heroin — known worldwide as an exporter of legal goods,” The Washington Post reports.
Education “is the key to eventually winning the war against corruption,” indicated the Afghan president.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a watchdog agency appointed by the U.S. Congress, has warned that “if corruption is allowed to continue unabated it will likely jeopardize every gain we’ve made so far in Afghanistan.”
SIGAR considers corruption “one of the most serious threats to the U.S.-funded Afghanistan reconstruction efforts.”
The U.S. has devoted nearly $110 billion in American taxpayer funds to its reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, an unprecedented amount aimed at developing Afghanistan’s government and security forces; improving its economy and infrastructure; expanding access to health care and education; and making improvements to the standard of living and rule of law in the country.
General John Allen, the former commander of all U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, described corruption as “the existential threat to the long- term viability of modern Afghanistan.”
“Corruption destroys the populace’s confidence in their elected officials, siphons off funds that would be used to combat insurgents or build infrastructure, and ultimately leads to a government that is ineffectual and distrusted,” reported SIGAR in September 2014.
Echoing SIGAR, Experts cited by The Post argue that endemic corruption in Afghanistan has hindered the 14-year-old U.S.-led efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, notes The Times.
“Regrettably, corruption is no longer considered taboo in Afghan society; it has been ingrained in the culture as an accepted norm,” Haroun Mir, the founder of Afghanistan’s Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS), wrote in an op-ed article for Al Jazeera in June. “Therefore, a multifaceted approach will be required to curb and control it.”