By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 20, 2012 – Corruption is not inevitable in Afghanistan, but is a more recent phenomenon caused by 30 years of war, a coalition officer said here today.
And with coalition help, the Afghan government is making progress against it, said Col. Paul Van Den Broek, a New Zealand soldier in charge of Joint Task Force Shafafiyat – a Dari and Pashto word meaning “transparency.”
“Will it be fast? No. But it is happening,” the colonel told reporters traveling with Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who met with Afghan and coalition leaders here today.
The Afghan government suggested the need for the task force, the colonel said, to reduce corruption so it does not present a “fatal threat” to the viability of the Afghan state.
That threat does exist now, the colonel added, and at its heart is the nexus of drugs and the Taliban.
The Taliban provide land for farmers to grow poppies, they provide the workers, they tax the product, and they provide protection, run the laboratories and then traffic the narcotics, he explained.
“To the Taliban, it is key money that they need to operate in the war,” the colonel said. “It is a case of narcotics leaving Afghanistan in exchange for lethal aid coming in.”
Van Den Broek likened the situation to insurgents in Colombia using cocaine to fund operations or the Irish Republican Army using racketeering to pay for arms and bombs.
Not all narcotics rings in Afghanistan are run by the Taliban, the colonel said, noting that other criminal networks operate in the country. But the Taliban simply cannot operate without drugs and the money they bring in, he added.
This, Van Den Broek said, is where his task force gets involved. “There has been progress made in bringing down these networks,” he said.
Still, he acknowledged, the threat remains, and he quoted a Taliban shadow governor as saying “Where there is poppy, there is Taliban. Where there is no poppy, there is no Taliban.”
“We are working to make sure there is no Taliban,” the colonel said.