How inept is Afghanistan's government?
The New York Times reports today that the Afghan National Police have not been paid for two months and that neither the government of President Hamid Karzai nor the US officers and civilian officials responsible for administrating the funding of Afghanistan's government appear to have noticed.Skip to next paragraph
Dan Murphy is a staff writer for the Monitor's international desk, focused on the Middle East. Murphy, who has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and more than a dozen other countries, writes and edits Backchannels. The focus? War and international relations, leaning toward things Middle East.
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The government has the money, which comes from the United States and its NATO allies, but the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, missed a deadline for filing the necessary forms with the Finance Ministry, said Afghan officials interviewed Sunday. The back salaries will be paid in the next few days, the officials said, playing down the issue as a minor administrative mix-up.
... Western officials, in this case, were caught off guard. Despite the billions of dollars their countries spend to pay the police, many American and European officials were not aware that the police had not been paid for nearly two months. They first heard about it when contacted by a reporter on Sunday.
This is a stunning display of incompetence from all quarters and deserves consideration given the Obama administration's continued hope that President Karzai will sign an agreement that allows US troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2014. Karzai has refused to sign and two American-set deadlines have passed. US officials continue to insist that allowing foreign troops to stay is crucial for the continued flow of aid to Afghanistan and for the country's stability.
Afghanistan's national police number over 150,000 members. Since 2002 more than $30 billion has been spent on training and equipping them. While NATO touts its success in training cops, the police force is better known for its predatory disposition towards average Afghans. Extortion, theft, unlawful killing, and collaboration with the opium trade are often what passes for a thin blue line in Afghanistan. Naturally, it gets worse when their meager salaries aren't paid.
But it doesn't seem that anyone was minding the store. Another problem with the Afghan National Police is that they sometimes sell NATO supplied weapons and ammunition, particularly when they're in need of cash. With police salaries averaging below $240 a month, that almost certainly happened in the past few months.
If after 10 years and a war that has cost the US at least $1 trillion the government can't remember to pay its police (with money entirely provided by the US and other donors) - how many more years and how much money must be spent before it learns how?