Pakistan, Corruption Affect South, West Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2012 — Pak­istani safe havens add to the dif­fi­cul­ty in Afghanistan’s Hel­mand province, and cor­rup­tion also retards progress, the for­mer com­man­der of NATO forces in the region said here today.

Marine Corps Maj. Gen. John A. Toolan, com­man­der of the 2nd Marine Divi­sion and the for­mer com­man­der of Region­al Com­mand-South West, told the Defense Writ­ers’ Group that dur­ing his year-long tour in com­mand of the region the prob­lem of Pak­istan frus­trat­ed him.

His area of oper­a­tions in Afghanistan — the provinces of Hel­mand and Nim­ruz and Region­al Com­mand-South cen­tered around Kan­da­har — are par­tic­u­lar­ly sus­cep­ti­ble to inter­fer­ence com­ing from Pak­istan.

Pak­istan rep­re­sents a safe haven for ter­ror groups work­ing inside Afghanistan. The two places inside Pak­istan that were prob­lem­at­ic are Chaman — a Pak­istani city near Spin Bolduk — and Bahram Chah. Chaman is a major port of entry on the road to Kan­da­har. It is free-flow­ing trade hub and the ene­my has built up huge caches of bomb-mak­ing mate­r­i­al and Tal­iban sup­plies.

Bahram Chah is a hub where drugs go out of the coun­try and lethal aid is com­ing in, Too­nan said. “We saw it. We inter­dict­ed a lot,” he said.

His Marines and their Afghan allies inter­dict­ed about $78 mil­lion in drugs. “But it’s a pit­tance,” he said. “I’m told by DEA that it’s less than 12 per­cent of the opi­um that’s mov­ing across the bor­der.”

The Pak­istani Army’s 12th Corps was posi­tioned across the bor­der, he said. In his year-long tour, Toolan said he didn’t have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to sit down with 12th Corps com­man­ders and say, “ ‘Here’s what we’re doing on our side of the bor­der. If you can do this on your side of the bor­der, we can real­ly take care of this prob­lem.’ ”

The prob­lem is, he said, Pak­istan has wor­ries of its own and Balochis­tan, which bor­ders Afghanistan’s Hel­mand and Nim­ruz provinces, has its own sep­a­ratist move­ment under­way.

“The Pak­istani mil­i­tary knows, “if they start doing things, they could stir up the Balochis­tan bee­hive, so they just sit there. And it’s frus­trat­ing.

Diplo­mat­ic pres­sure on Pak­istan is impor­tant, “but we don’t want to break the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment,” Toolan said.

“From my per­spec­tive as a mil­i­tary com­man­der hav­ing to deal with the prob­lem, it’s like I can’t shut the water off, I just keep mop­ping up the floor,” Toolan said. “If I could turn the water off in Pak­istan it would be a lot bet­ter.”

The biggest threat inside Afghanistan is cor­rup­tion, Toolan said. This threat, he said, con­sists of two types: par­a­sitic and preda­to­ry. Par­a­sitic cor­rup­tion, he said, is from gov­ern­ment offi­cials feath­er­ing their own nests.

The gen­er­al cit­ed an Afghan sen­a­tor from his area who is “a bad influ­encer in the south of Afghanistan. He’s con­nect­ed to the drug indus­try and his influ­ence is to keep that alive.”

Toolan said the man in ques­tion active­ly works to weak­en the author­i­ty of Afghanistan’s cen­tral gov­ern­ment. “As long as the cen­tral gov­ern­ment allows peo­ple like that to oper­ate, it keeps it weak,” he said.

Preda­to­ry cor­rup­tion is some­thing mil­i­tary com­man­ders can deal with, Toolan said. This is the abuse of pow­er, he said. This is sol­diers or police who abuse their offi­cial posi­tions for prof­it.

“While I was in Hel­mand province, there were indi­ca­tions that preda­to­ry cor­rup­tion was occur­ring,” the gen­er­al said. “What we tried to do was to iden­ti­fy it quick­ly … and actu­al­ly hold peo­ple account­able.”

Dur­ing his tour in the province, Toolan said the rule of law was start­ing to take root and the provin­cial gov­er­nor and police chief also want­ed to crack down on such preda­to­ry cor­rup­tion.

There are solu­tions, but they will take time, the gen­er­al said.

“We need to work real­ly hard at strength­en­ing the cen­tral gov­ern­ment to take on the par­a­sitic cor­rup­tion, and main­tain a close watch and coop­er­a­tion with gov­ern­ment offi­cials to iden­ti­fy preda­to­ry cor­rup­tion,” Toolan said.

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