Whatever you think of the war in Afghanistan, there is no denying that the recent reports of rampant financial corruption going on even at the highest levels of Afghanistan’s government are extremely troubling. The United States has spent billions upon billions of dollars to help Afghanistan set up a “democracy”, but now there is news that corrupt government officials have been shipping billions and billions of dollars out of the country and have been buying luxury villas in Dubai. Apparently many Afghan officials have decided to achieve “the American Dream” the same way that many U.S. politicians have achieved it – by lying, cheating and stealing. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that over three billion dollars in cash has been flown out of Kabul International Airport in recent years. Considering the fact that this is far more than the Afghan government collects in tax and customs revenue annually, it is obvious that there is a huge, huge, huge problem with corruption in Afghanistan. Much of the cash being shipped out of the country is from the drug trade, but the narcotics money does not account for all of it. Investigators allege that a significant portion of this money that is being shipped out of the country is actually aid money that comes directly from U.S. taxpayers.
One U.S. official who is investigating corruption and Taliban financing recently gave his bleak assessment of what is going on….
“A lot of this looks like our tax dollars being stolen. And opium, of course.”
The truth is that rampant, in-your-face corruption is going on in a country that we are currently occupying militarily and that we are spending hundreds of billions of dollars to supposedly try to bring democracy to.
Afghan officials aren’t even trying to hide it. As Der Spiegel described recently, this corruption is going on right out in the open….
Brigadier General Mohammed Asif Jabarkhel sits with folded arms in his office, just a few steps away from the security checkpoint at Kabul International Airport. “Of course I know what’s going on here,” the 59-year-old head of the airport’s customs police grumbles from beneath his thick moustache as a fan whirs in the background. “But, in this country, who’s allowed to speak the truth?”
Jabarkhel is referring to the huge amounts of money regularly being secreted out of Afghanistan by plane in boxes and suitcases. According to some estimates, since 2007, at least $3 billion (€2.4 billion) in cash has left the country in this way. The preferred destination for these funds is Dubai, the tax haven in the Persian Gulf.
You know, there is just one major airport in the capital of Afghanistan. How hard would it be for the U.S. military to get a handle on what is going on at that one airport?
What in the world are we accomplishing anyway? Are we there to keep corrupt Afghan officials safe enough so that they can smuggle billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars out of the country and buy luxury villas in Dubai?
While the corrupt Afghan government officials live the high life, U.S. soldiers are paying the price. In fact, the violence in that nation is rapidly getting worse. It was recently reported that a majority of all combat-related U.S. casualties in the nine-year-long war in Afghanistan have occurred since Barack Obama was inaugurated about a year and a half ago.
So now there have been more U.S. casualties in Afghanistan under Obama than there were under George W. Bush.
Isn’t that wonderful?
But now Obama even wants to send U.S. civilians to Afghanistan. During a recent speech in Racine, Wisconsin, Obama called for sending a “civilian expeditionary force” to Afghanistan and Iraq to help “overburdened” U.S. military forces build infrastructure.
And yet Obama denies that we are engaged in “nation building”.
Considering the fact that U.S. cities such as Detroit now look like bombed-out war zones, shouldn’t we be devoting our resources to building up our own infrastructure?
No, we have to send billions to Afghanistan instead so that corrupt government officials can steal it and ship it out of the country. The previously referenced article in Der Spiegel summed up the situation this way….
It is clear that much more money is making its way out of Afghanistan through Kabul’s airport than is being officially declared and logged. For example, important politicians and businesspeople can often board planes from the airport’s special VIP area without being searched. And if customs officials do conduct a search and find a suitcase stuffed with millions of dollars in cash, people with powerful connections often step in to make sure that the luggage makes it out of the country with its owner — no questions asked. “A couple phone calls are made,” General Jabarkhel says with frustration in his voice, “and the person can carry on.”
Meanwhile, the United States continues to spend mind-boggling amounts of money to keep Afghanistan safe and secure.
According to a report from the Pentagon to the U.S. House of Representatives, it costs the United States $1 million per year for each U.S. soldier in Afghanistan.
In addition, it has come out that the U.S. military spends about $400 per gallon of gasoline in Afghanistan.
Why is it so expensive?
Well, Afghanistan is a landlocked nation. In order to get gasoline to U.S. forces operating in remote regions, it often has to be sent by helicopter. But sending gasoline by helicopter is incredibly inefficient.
So needless to say, the U.S. military is burning up massive amounts of money in Afghanistan.
But that is nothing when compared to the sacrifices that the dead and wounded U.S. soldiers have made.
So how is the Afghanistan government repaying us?
They are taking our aid money and buying expensive villas in Dubai with it as Der Spiegel recently detailed….
A number of Afghan businesspeople have purchased expensive villas in Dubai, once only attractive as a golfer’s paradise. These include a brother and a cousin of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, one of Karzai’s former vice presidents and the brother of Mohammad Qasim Fahim, one of the country’s two current vice presidents. Asking prices for the stylish, Roman-style houses built along the beaches of the man-made island Palm Jumeirah, for example, start at $2 million. Until just a few years ago, many of their current inhabitants were far from wealthy.
As the Washington Post has discovered, these properties are often only registered under the names of the individuals issuing the loans, such as Sherkhan Farnood, the founder and chairman of Kabul Bank, Afghanistan’s largest private bank, who was also a key supporter of President Karzai during his 2009 re-election campaign. Like many of his clients, Farnood now spends the majority of his time in Dubai. And among the 16 shareholders in his bank are Mahmoud Karzai, the president’s business-minded older brother, and Haseen Fahim, the brother of Afghan Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim.
Are you angry yet?
Perhaps we should let these corrupt Afghan officials pick up arms and start defending their own country against the Taliban.
Perhaps then they would not have so much time to be running around buying luxury villas in Dubai.