Afghans Must Address Corruption, Criminal Networks, Mullen Says

KABUL, Afghanistan, July 31, 2011 — The Afghan gov­ern­ment must address cor­rup­tion and crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tions sub­vert­ing the will of the peo­ple, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said here today.

Mullen, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, held a press con­fer­ence at the head­quar­ters of the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force. He square­ly warned of the dan­gers that cor­rup­tion pos­es in this country. 

The surge in Amer­i­can and coali­tion forces has strength­ened Afghan secu­ri­ty. Now, good gov­er­nance needs to step to the fore, Mullen said, not­ing that there are many coura­geous and ded­i­cat­ed Afghan civ­il ser­vants work­ing to improve their country. 

“I am encour­aged by what I have seen hap­pen­ing in Arghandab dis­trict in Kanada­har province,” he said. “And I am grate­ful for the effi­cien­cy and the lead­er­ship of pub­lic ser­vants like Gov­er­nor Man­gal of Helmand.” 

But there are oth­ers who are using pub­lic office to line their own pock­ets or improve their tribes’ stand­ing in the nation. 

“I think it’s fair to say that in the main, Afghan gov­ern­ment offi­cials must work on becom­ing more respon­sive to the needs and aspi­ra­tions of their peo­ple,” he said. 

The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment must con­nect with the province and dis­trict gov­ern­ments. Nation­al lead­ers must work with local lead­ers to strength­en the rule of law, build an infra­struc­ture and pro­grams to join the enti­ties and be respon­sive to the needs of the peo­ple for basic ser­vices, he said. 

Nation­al lead­ers are aware of the prob­lems, and are begin­ning to address them, Mullen said. But many gov­er­nors still do not receive funds from Kab­ul. Oth­er offi­cials “pur­sue nar­row agen­das that exclude key ele­ments of the pop­u­la­tion and per­pet­u­ate pop­u­lar dis­con­tent or frus­trate rein­te­gra­tion efforts,” he said. 

Many agen­cies and depart­ment of the Afghan gov­ern­ment have been infil­trat­ed and sub­vert­ed by crim­i­nal patron­age net­works, the chair­man said, and, in most agen­cies, there is no such thing as mer­it-based hir­ing or promotion. 

“None of these defi­cien­cies are insur­mount­able,” he said. “But over­com­ing them will require ener­gy and effort, polit­i­cal courage and inter­na­tion­al support.” 

Address­ing cor­rup­tion and orga­nized crime has to be a pri­or­i­ty, the chair­man said. These net­works weak­en Afghanistan, and their “preda­to­ry behav­ior angers the pop­u­lace, siphons resources and under­mines the cred­i­bil­i­ty of Afghan insti­tu­tions,” he said. 

The U.S. mil­i­tary has exam­ined $27.5 bil­lion worth of local­ly let con­tracts to ensure that Amer­i­can mon­ey is not used by these crim­i­nal net­works, said a senior west­ern offi­cial speak­ing on back­ground before the chairman’s news con­fer­ence. The U.S. gov­ern­ment has debarred more than 50 firms from any busi­ness deal­ings, but more needs to be done. 

“We must end impuni­ty for crim­i­nals who are sub­vert­ing the state and vic­tim­iz­ing the Afghan peo­ple,” Mullen said. 

The chair­man said he under­stands that any changes will be dif­fi­cult to put in place and take time to accom­plish, but it must hap­pen for suc­cess of the Afghan state. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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