25 September 2010

Red-Teaming Corruption in Afghanistan

Looking at the war from other points of view can make a big difference.

On a NATO base in Kabul, a five-member team is rethinking the war in Afghanistan and questioning some of the basic assumptions behind the effort to clean up corruption and gain the upper hand over the Taliban.

Among the ideas this so-called 'Red Team' is generating:

• Accept that Afghanistan's entrenched system of graft won't change overnight, so pick your battles.

• Recognize that for Afghans, some corruption is worse than others, so tackle what affects them day-to-day first.

• Study how the Taliban won power by exploiting Afghanistan's system of payoffs and patronage in the 1990s, and borrow those tactics.

The Red Team's studies are part of an evolution of thinking among diplomats, commanders and analysts alike that applying Western standards to combat corruption has not produced results fast enough.

Further, concentrating on what is most important to Americans — such as raiding Afghan government offices over large-scale abuses — has served only to alienate the government of President Hamid Karzai. Such raids have done little to erase the nickel-and-dime bribes Afghans have to pay to drive down a highway, or see a government doctor — the daily shakedowns that drive the people into the arms of the insurgents, who provide similar services without the graft.

By: Brant

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