As inconceivable as it may be, Afghans could teach our politicians (and military) a thing or two about bureaucracy. Imagine requiring the Secretary of Defense’s signature to purchase this truckload of supplies.
The $2,000 of building materials required 26 signatures and was ultimately bottom-lined by the Afghan Minister of Defense. A similar amount of supplies purchased by the U.S. government is regarded as a micro-purchase and could be signed-off by an E-5 with a government-issued credit card!
NTM-A and IJC may struggle getting the ANSF to build terrain models and use Port-o-lets and HMMWV‘s properly, but there is no problem developing multi-layered hierarchies and worthless flow-charts that inhibit real work while promoting ample opportunities for corruption.
Wall Street Journal published this very disturbing story about the National Military Hospital here in Kabul: “At Afghan Military Hospital, Graft and Deadly Neglect.”
I have little doubt that we (NATO, Coalition partners, and Americans alike) are trying to make things better. A day doesn’t go by that we don’t deal with some form of corruption. We have virtually accepted that this is how business is done in Afghanistan: Garrison commanders selling portions of their bases (government property) to anyone who can afford their price, requiring construction contractors to pay “entry fees” to enter the base to build facilities for the ANSF, misuse of equipment provided for them (see here, here, here, here, and here–although this last one is more of a reflection of the culture clash than anything), and the list goes on. We don’t tolerate it when we experience it and demand that Afghan officials to do their own investigations and implement solutions to the corruption.
But then who is to say that our way is right and their way is wrong? Who are we to judge how the Afghans run their country? Isn’t this what liberals been teaching us for years–that we shouldn’t judge others or impose our beliefs upon them? Maybe so–but we don’t have to spend our money on their way.
On the bright-side, the article cited above is old news and there have been improvements. Independent medical audits have shown significant improvements across every medical performance metric at NMH since the fall of last year. But in Afghanistan, it will always be an uphill battle and whether our “improvements” will remain another matter.
Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”