Kabul President Hamid Karzai promised to stamp out corruption. The image suggested otherwise. Standing at Karzai’s side on Tuesday were his two vice presidents — both former warlords widely believed to have looted Afghanistan for years.
Reform is a tall order in a country awash in drug money. Afghans pay bribes for everything from driver’s licenses to police protection, and the elite all too often treat state property as their own.
“Right now 85 percent of the government is corrupt,” said Ahmed Shah Lumar, a businessman in the southern city of Kandahar. He said bribery, extortion and other corrupt practices extend “from the very small person” in government to the very top.
International pressure is mounting on Karzai to make clean government a top priority as he begins his second term after an election marred by fraud. President Barack Obama wants concrete steps, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.
Gibbs told reporters that the U.S. Embassy in Kabul was working with the Afghans on an anti-corruption compact, but he refused to comment on specific benchmarks or deadlines.