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A three-pronged approach to confront Afghanistan’s corruption

Corruption is not inevitable. Afghanistan should focus on technical, legal, and cultural areas to ease the tyranny of corruption.

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President Karzai’s Washington visit last month was basically a “be-nice-to-Karzai summit.”

After a period of harsh and direct US criticism this past fall, the air is cleared, but issues remain. Corruption in particular – hardly touched upon during the visit – threatens to imperil success in Afghanistan even if the military and security challenges are mastered.

Transparency International ranks Afghanistan as the second most corrupt country in the world, after Somalia. A study from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime reports that corruption is the second-largest contributor to the country’s gross domestic product. Clearly, corruption is Afghanistan’s Achilles’ heel.

A few weeks ago, RAND hosted a gathering of the Afghan government’s director general for the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption, civil society activists, investigative journalists, parliamentarians, educators, and bloggers in Kabul to discuss Afghanistan’s future.

While the participants generated a depressing list of the myriad ways corruption permeates daily life, we also found many bright spots – groups and individuals resisting the insidious spread of corruption – and together developed ideas on how to fight corruption more effectively.

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