2003 July 06 Sunday
Poorly Paid Afghan Police Prey On Populace

Writing for The Christian Science Monitor Owais Tohid paints a bleak picture of corruption in the 50,000 strong police force in Afghanistan.

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN As the sun sets over Kabul, the city's hustle and bustle is replaced by shadows and darkness. And with twilight emerges a new criminal network - members of the city police.


Observers say if the illegal activities of policemen are not checked, the lawlessness may take Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan back into the era where warlords wreaked havoc on the country.

The police are not getting paid because Western aid donors haven't fulfilled their aid promises. Lawlessness was a major reason why the populace welcomed the Taliban in the first place.

By contrast, writing for The Washington Times Paul Rodriguez reports little crime but enormous waste on the part of the international aid agencies.

"It's a shame, really, given all the talent we have just sitting around," says a U.S. officer who points to the Band-Aid projects assigned to the military. "We could do so much more."

A wide array of Western and Afghan officials say that somewhere up the line the decision has been made to keep the United States in the background while leaving the bulk of the aid work to the international bureaucrats, heavily laden with overhead that eats up as much as 90 percent of funds targeted for aid on the ground. Afghans see this and express desperation. Whether aid workers are Belgian, Greek, English, Hungarian or Spanish, the Afghans view all Westerners as Americans.

Rodriguez reports that Westerners are paying $100 per day for security guards. But Tohid reports that the Afghan government is so short of cash that it has cut police pay in half to less than $17 per month. Are these two claims simultaneously plausible? Are all the Westerners hiring their own guards for their living areas in Kabul and reporting to Rodriguez that they are not having problems with robbers while the rest of the city lives a more perilous existence?

So whose report is more plausible in terms of the crime problem in Afghanistan? Well, here are some ideas: First, Tohid has contributed to CSM reports on Afghanistan going back at least 2 months whereas Rodriguez says he made a 3 week trip thru the country. Also, Rodriguez does acknowledge roaming gangs in the countryside and says aid workers are less safe there than they were a few months ago (one can assume that Afghans are less safe there as well now though he doesn't say). I'm tending toward the view that Tohid is correct in believing that many Afghan police are corrupt and that their salary reduction is pushing more of them into corruption.

BTW, I actually think that the Rodriguez article has a lot of excellent reporting on many more facets of what is going on in Afghanistan. I just suspect he is underestimating the extent of the lawlessness.

Read both reports and offer your opinions in the comment section.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 July 06 02:56 PM  Reconstruction and Reformation

nazish said at August 19, 2003 12:57 PM:

I think Rodriguez's views seem to be of a westerner and Tohid quoted the victims and tried to tell the readers that how alarming the present lawlessness is especially if you look back to the history of Afghanistan.

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