If you'll forgive a gross oversimplification, the basic task of the United States in Afghanistan is to establish some basic governing institutions in the country that will outpace the radical elements of the Taliban in providing for the Afghan people, in the hopes that we will "win hearts and minds."
Here's the bad news: according to the Washington Post, a new survey of Afghans emphasizes that Afghans "see their country's police and judicial officials as the most corrupt in the government."
But the really bad news is that the Afghan government is getting some serious competition in the corruption department, and it's coming from a homegrown source. As Carlotta Gall reports in today's New York Times, U.S. contractors are basically running amok, and screwing the Afghans out of all sorts of money!
A number of Afghan construction companies working on contracts for American and NATO military bases in Afghanistan have accused American middlemen of reneging on payments for supplies and services, and in one case of leaving the country owing Afghan companies hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars.
Well, that's terrific news. In this report, American contractors are said to have "left hundreds of Afghan workers unpaid," and -- even better -- left "dozens of factories and small businesses" in paralyzing debt. As you may surmise, Afghans aren't exactly in the position where they can avail themselves of top-flight legal recourse to seek remedy for claims because the country is, as they say, totally jacked up.
Do you ever wonder what it's like to be an Afghan small business owner, deep in debt to creditors, because an American contractor failed to perform the basic duty of their "contract," that is, paying people the money they are owed?"
One of the businessmen, Jalaluddin Saeed, said he was owed $1.5 million by Bennett-Fouch for four contracts to provide concrete barriers for American and NATO military bases last year. He said his life was now in danger and he had had to leave his home city of Kandahar and move his family to avoid his many angry creditors.
Yikes! It makes you wonder if any of this could potentially blowback on U.S. forces, who are tasked with assuring the Afghan people that we have their best interests at heart.
"Without being too dramatic, American contractors are contributing to fueling the insurgency," said [a military official with the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan], who could speak only on the condition of anonymity in keeping with the policy of his organization.
I'm sure our fighting men and women thank these contractors very much and will take solace in the increased profitability that comes from preying on the vulnerable people of a war-torn country!
Afghan Companies Say U.S. Did Not Pay Them [New York Times]
Survey of Afghans points to rampant corruption in government [Washington Post]