Saturday, November 14, 2009

Afghan corruption is life and death

I've only just seen this but The Sunday Times had an in depth story by the exceptionally fine journalist Christina Lamb on Afghanistan. It includes revelations about the recent shooting of five British soldiers that made my blood run cold;

The 25-year-old, an unmarried man called Gulbuddin, was part of a 15-strong team that manned a police station in the Nad Ali district, in the heart of Helmand’s poppy-farming lands.

Embedded with the Afghan police were two trainers from the Royal Military Police and a protection force of 14 soldiers from Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, the Grenadier Guards.

The Taliban subsequently claimed Gulbuddin as one of theirs. Senior sources say local intelligence shows the claim is false, however. In addition, witnesses contacted by The Sunday Times say other factors lay behind the massacre.

According to two Afghans who knew him, Gulbuddin had complained of being brutally beaten, sodomised and sexually abused by a senior Afghan officer. A policeman named Ajmal, a friend of the gunman, said Gulbuddin had been constantly tortured. “He was being used for sexual purposes,” said Ajmal.

Another policeman, Kharullah, who was injured in the shooting, said: “Gulbuddin was beaten many times and that’s why he got angry. One day when he was patrolling with British soldiers, he swore he was going to kill him.”

When Gulbuddin opened fire with a machinegun, his target was his alleged abuser. According to the Afghan sources, the five British soldiers were killed simply because they were present and considered to be the man’s protectors.

The allied task to prop up this corrupt regime is not simply one where we are making the best out of a bad situation but one where we are actively protecting rapists, ballot-riggers and reactionaries.

Far from being killed by the Taliban it appears that these British servicemen were in fact killed by a police officer that we'd severely let down in the most horrendous way. I've no doubt that they did not deserve to be killed, just as Gulbuddin did not deserve to be raped and beaten by a superior officer protected by a ring of British bayonets.

Speaking on Question Time last week Sir Ian Blair had said the problem was that the police officers were being recruited "off the streets" (i.e. they come from Afghanistan) when in fact the main problem is that the regime the police serve is itself corrupt to the very top.


ModernityBlog said...

I think the model of a centralise state doesn't really fit Afghanistan.

Conceivably, a slightly more federalised approach might work, but then again corruption is fairly endemic in a lot of countries, aside from Afghanistan.

Barely a year goes by without the Beijing dictatorship shooting a few dozen officials in the neck for greed and corruption.

Then, of course, you have the various dictatorships across Southeast Asia, including Burma which is watchword for corruption.

A old list of the "most" corrupt in 2004,

More recently,

Jim Jepps said...

I confess I thought I wasn't going to agree with you - but I do...

I think the centralised state is particularly inappropriate in this case because it effectively does not exist in so many part of the country.

This means that the good stuff a central state can do (education, health, protection from local gangsters, etc) does not happen at all in most areas, but the repressive part of afghan and allied troop movements do exist.

I'm a pessimist though as I don't see a fast way of creating a happy, democratic Afghan nation, centralised or federal.