During his unannounced visit to Afghanistan earlier this month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered misguided praise for the Afghan government as he reaffirmed the U.S. commitment there. He lauded the country for having “come quite a distance already in terms of creating … a much more vibrant government.” Unfortunately, the Afghan government is far from vibrant. More to the point, it is horribly corrupt, incompetent, and illiberal.
Instead of offering praise, Americans should be asking why their government continues to support such a dreadful regime. More importantly, why should Afghans support their own government? And without Afghans offering increasing support to their government, the “longest war” will likely only get longer.
Far from fair and judicious, the Afghan government enables its officials to get away with nearly anything. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index assesses the Afghan government as more corrupt than 96 percent of all governments in the international system. Understandably, Secretary Tillerson shared U.S. concerns about corruption during his recent meeting with the Afghan president, concerns that previous administrations frequently raised in the past and had ignored.
All of that corruption sounds a lot like what I saw when I served as the military commander of a provincial reconstruction team working with Afghan government officials in 2010.