Commentary Magazine


Topic: Kam Air

Is the U.S. Cracking Down on Corruption in Afghanistan?

There has been a lot of blowback in Afghanistan and Washington about the decision by U.S. military commanders to blacklist Kam Air, a large civilian airline, from receiving military contracts because it is allegedly used to ship tons of drugs to Central Asia. Predictably Kam Air is mobilizing its supporters, including Hamid Karzai, to denounce the U.S. action as an insult to a proud nation.

Hooey. There is nothing pro-Afghan about allowing U.S. government dollars to be used to support corruption and drug trafficking that is at odds with the values of the vast majority of ordinary Afghans. Yet for all too long U.S. spending has not been closely monitored and has gone to benefit kleptocrats and warlords, two categories that are almost synonymous in Afghanistan. Abusive government has been the Taliban’s biggest recruiting tool and U.S. failure to do more to stem the misuse of its funds the biggest mistake the U.S. has made during a decade of war.

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There has been a lot of blowback in Afghanistan and Washington about the decision by U.S. military commanders to blacklist Kam Air, a large civilian airline, from receiving military contracts because it is allegedly used to ship tons of drugs to Central Asia. Predictably Kam Air is mobilizing its supporters, including Hamid Karzai, to denounce the U.S. action as an insult to a proud nation.

Hooey. There is nothing pro-Afghan about allowing U.S. government dollars to be used to support corruption and drug trafficking that is at odds with the values of the vast majority of ordinary Afghans. Yet for all too long U.S. spending has not been closely monitored and has gone to benefit kleptocrats and warlords, two categories that are almost synonymous in Afghanistan. Abusive government has been the Taliban’s biggest recruiting tool and U.S. failure to do more to stem the misuse of its funds the biggest mistake the U.S. has made during a decade of war.

Not enough is being done, even now, to enforce some accountability and to bring corrupt Afghan allies to heel. But at least the decision on Kam Air–assuming it is founded upon solid intelligence–is in all likelihood a step in the right direction. The U.S. military should not be deterred by the resultant squawking from doing more to control our contracting.

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