A Clock Ticking to Failure?

November 18, 2009 photog blogs

“Westerners are occasionally targeted by criminals or Taliban sympathisers, and kidnapping can be a threat. The target of suicide bombers are mostly military convoys, stay far away. Riots happen occasionally and are often accompanied by looting – stay well away from them as authorities will respond with lethal force. Avoid walking after dark, and vary your routes during the day. Kabul is generally considered one of the safer parts of the country, but bombings have increased somewhat since late 2006”

You would at first read consider the quote to have come from a security briefing, or a travel warning issued by a Government source. But no the above actually comes from the inflight magazine of Safi Airways, which flies into Kabul, from Dubai.

Not exactly a happy picture of a destination that is to be home for the next month. Then again it reflects a true picture of just how bad things are getting here in Afghanistan.

This is my third trip this year to Afghanistan and no matter how I try to reflect on the positive side the negatives of the situation here outweigh everything. Yesterday we met with US military and Western Diplomats, for once it would be good if they were to give an honest and truthful account of just how bad it is going here.

Forget the war for one moment and consider the domestic issues. Here you have a population that considers it’s own Police force not as partners in society, but as predators and according to a senior US Military Commander, “People here consider the police as worse than the Taliban”.

The level of corruption starts at the very bottom and extends to the highest levels. In fact whilst filming a story on corruption, we walked away from our vehicles to film in the market. Only to find out that the local police had shaken down our driver for 200 Afghanis or 4 dollars.

Want a passport, pay the bribe. Need hospital treatment then consider a donation as a precursor to treatment. Need to register your car then take extra to the office. According to diplomatic sources the average person here is spending a minimum of 20% of their annual income on paying corrupt officials.

In fact the Government department that is charge of monitoring corruption is regarded as “Inept and Useless”. To placate Western donors the Government has relaunched for a third time a task force to investigate corruption. Laws here do not have any legal status for any official to declare any of his assets. On a previous trip we learnt that govt officials on a salary of approx $600 a month had somehow managed to get assets worth in excess of 20 million dollars. .

You get tired of hearing Diplomats and Military Leaders saying “It’s a start” or “They have good intent”, whenever there is a relaunch of a taskforce here.

There has only been one issue on which everyone has agreed, the clock is ticking down to failure here. Victory will not be measured in Military success but by the willingness of Afghan’s and the West to “settle for an imperfect state” according to sources here.

Certain failure and the complete collapse of society is predicted to be less than twelve months away, unless things change. Eight years in the war here and the reality of expectations is at an all time low.

One reality check for Afghanistan, is that is now ranked 179th out of 180 countries in the world for “Corruption” according to the monitoring group “Transparency International”. The only country that is considered worse is Somalia.