For decades, Afghanistan has been plagued by a myriad of problems. Although things have been looking up in recent years, most of the underlying troubles remain. The Taliban has regained ground and corruption runs rampant. Although in the past Afghanistan has been controlled by various extremist, terrorist, and insurgent groups, the country is now finally on the brink of having a democratic government. They held an election in 2014, and the voter turnout was nearly 100%. Unfortunately, this was not the end of their problems. Although most news sources focused on the record turnout in the 2014 election, they often left out the fact that much of the election was rigged, and voting regulations were broken all over the country.
The previous president, Hamid Karzai was extremely unpopular, and the record voter turnout was primarily the result of people wanting to prevent him from throwing the election to his prefered successor Abdullah. Although they were successful, and the the election went to Ghani, the extreme level of corruption led to US intervention to broker a deal between the two. This deal makes Ghani the official president, but gives Abdullah a Prime-Minister-like position. This means that the country is now led by two opposing parties, trying to work together. While the people now have the president they voted for, they are still dissatisfied with the outcome of the election. Despite the number of people who voted to prevent Abdullah from taking office, he still gained a powerful position, and many feel that their votes are meaningless, as the election was only determined by US intervention. Many people believe that this cobbled together government may in fact be worse that the Karzai regime, as it will plunge the country into political gridlock.
The same corruption that has plagued the elections can be seen elsewhere as well. In fact, bribery is a force that influences nearly every aspect of life in Afghanistan, from police, to judges, tax officials, customs officers, and legislators. According to a UN study in 2012, 50% of Afghans reported paying a bribe in that year. Despite the dramatic changes in the government in 2014, the increasing trend of corruption has seen no noticeable change. This corruption is so ingrained in Afghanistan’s system, that it cannot even be considered a threat to the government, but rather an unstable foundation that the government was built upon.
After the Soviet Union left Afghanistan in 1987, the country was broken into “fiefdoms” controlled by various warlords. These warlords and their followers operated like gangs, working primarily for themselves, but also bringing local peace. Unfortunately, these warlords have not gone away with the formation of a centralized government, but have instead become guerrilla factions who still hold significant power among both the people and the government. Although the Afghan government itself is not gang-like, much of the government is controlled by these warlords. The Afghan military has taken steps to try to eliminate this corruption, however the military is not free from influence of these warlords either, making them almost impossible to remove. In some ways the country is still shattered, with local rulers controlling their own territory. In some areas, the government has even given these warlords permission to act as local government, although some of them are deemed too violent to be unopposed. Even with aid from the US, Afghanistan’s government is still extremely weak, allowing gangs and guerrilla groups to establish their own territories and take control of them.
Although it has gone through several different governments, Afghanistan has remained a fractured state since the fall of the USSR. The warlords who once controlled the country as local rulers still hold power through fear and government corruption. While they are not the only source of corruption, they use it quite effectively to their advantage. Afghanistan is ranked in the top three most corrupt countries in the world, and despite the new government, this seems unlikely to change. While the new government is neither gang-like or in support of corruption, they are divided, and unable to effectively control the various criminal elements in Afghanistan.