Afghanistan has a justice system that money can buy: Sopko
In an interview published in a British newspaper on Tuesday, he was asked to comment on how dealing with corruption in Afghanistan compared to tackling the mafia: “It’s different and it’s harder,” Sopko replied.
He told the Independent: “When I was with the organised crime section, Department of Justice, you’re dealing with a legitimate legal system…you don’t have that in Afghanistan...and the joke is Afghanistan has the best justice system that money can buy.”
The top US official acknowledged working with some honest and brave Afghan policemen, prosecutors and judges. But many of them hadbeen intimidated or killed,making the fight against corruption difficult, he said.
SIGAR exposed in recent that months millions of dollars were spent on importing rare goats in a bid to boost the cashmere industry in Afghanistan, but the animals vanished. Additionally, a petrol station that should have accounted for a few hundred thousand dollars ended up costing $43m.
He said many problems were spawned by the way the US administration did business, and the biggest issue was that individuals were never held accountable for their mistakes. “Too much has been wasted and it’s in the billions...”
Investigating and auditing US-funded projects in Afghanistan had become an increasingly risky task because of insecurity. In February he came to the country, but did not get out of military bases due to security threats.
In the past, Sopko recalled, he would meet governors, visit poppy fieldsand police. He was then driving in an unarmoured car along with a couple of agents in Kabul. “You can’t do that anymore.”
The SIGAR identified security, corruption and narcotics as the biggest challenges facing Afghanistan. Asked if Afghanistan is a narco-criminal state, Sopko replied: “I can’t say, I don’t really know, I just know it’s a serious threat...”
In the past 13 years, the newspaper said, $113 billion had been spent by the US government on reconstruction in Afghanistan -- more than the £103bn it spent on helping to rebuild Europe after the Second World War.
Figures from the US Commission on War Time Contracting, for each dollar spent in Afghanistan, 29 cents disappears in fraud or wastage. Even that was a conservative estimate, the panel said in its final report in 2011.
Since Sopko’s appointment in 2012, SIGAR investigations have led to saving more than $946 million and over 100 arrests and criminal charges.
Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, on your smartphone to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.