Corruption and Embezzlement: Past, Current and Future Problem of Afghanistan

The Wall Street Journal has recently reported that high-ranking Afghan officials escaped from Afghanistan after the collapse of the Kabul Administration in August 2021 to live in luxury homes abroad. The report reveals a bitter truth about the corruption perpetrators in Afghanistan and how cruel political figures have been in regard to the fate of Afghanistan. At a time when nearly 99% of the people in Afghanistan are struggling with the worst economic conditions of their time, politicians, like celebrities, live in luxurious homes in western countries, entertaining the stolen money from the people of Afghanistan.

The publication of list of corrupt figures in Afghanistan on the international media spilled salt on one of the country’s wounds. Corruption is the twin of war, and these two variables have been prevalent among politicians for nearly half a century. Corruption refers to the misuse of power in public arena for personal gain. This phenomenon is present in all countries to some extent, albeit mildly. But in some countries, such as Afghanistan, it reaches a terrible level that engulfs all governmental and non-governmental institutions.

The history of systematic corruption in Afghanistan dates back to the years of the Cold War between the two superpowers and their allies, who sent incalculable facilities to their proxies in Afghanistan. Facilities that did not come through transparent legal channels, were not handed over to the competent legal authorities, and did not require reporting and accountability. Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, the head of the Saudi Arabia’s intelligence service in the 1980s, wrote in his book that in only one case, at the very beginning of the jihad in Afghanistan, he handed over $2 million in cash to the Pakistani government to be delivered to the Afghan Mujahideen. It did not remain with the international community. The Soviet Union at the time provided similar assistance to its sponsored government and affiliated groups. The phenomenon of corruption in vast operative money, along with money from the sale of weapons and narcotics, formed part of the corrupt economy that circulated between the Mujahideen on one side and the government militias on the other. Promoting anti-corruption rhetoric, the Taliban quickly became part of that corrupt structure by solely relying on drug trafficking. This gradually led corruption to be considered as part of the institutions scope of work in Afghanistan and culture with not matter of shame.

During the overthrown republic regime in Kabul, a huge amount of money flowed into Afghanistan, and this time corruption became uncontrollable, involving giant, international companies and figures, as well as local figures and groups, in addition to a lack of will at the government leadership level. This widespread corruption, which spread from government departments to non-governmental organizations and even at the community level turned into a flood that swept the republic. One of the factors exacerbating this phenomenon in the last two decades, in addition to the worn-out bureaucracy, was the war waged by the Taliban. The group’s commanders were part of the phenomenon in the form of extortion, kidnapping and drug trafficking.

These days, a number of prominent figures who were very directly and shamelessly involved in embezzlement and corruption have returned to Kabul in collusion with the Taliban in order to use their skills in raising and embezzling operative funds in the service of the Taliban in addition to reclaiming their corrupt assets. Afghanistan will not be stable without structural change, without dismantling the corrupt culture and without prosecuting corrupt figures, which is not possible without the help of the international community, without an endogenous economy and without a national government. The Taliban do not have the capacity to change this situation, and just as their leaders are already in fierce competition over smuggling, embezzlement and remarriage, the fractured system will be swallowed up by these monsters.