Briefing | July 8, 2016

Afghanistan and the NATO Warsaw Summit

Civil Society Organisations Call on Afghanistan and NATO to Make Counter-Corruption a Priority at the Warsaw Summit this Weekend

On July 9, the leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) will meet in Warsaw to discuss the future of security assistance to the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF).  Integrity Watch Afghanistan, Transparency International, and Global Witness have called upon the Afghan government to make strong commitments to improve transparency, accountability, and counter-corruption in the security sector and across the Afghan government at the Summit.  We further call upon both parties to make such commitments a key benchmark for continued security assistance.

 Integrity Watch Afghanistan, Transparency International, and Global Witness have co-signed the letters below to Afghan President Ghani and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg calling for benchmarks for future NATO engagement to include greater internal accountability, external oversight and transparency, personnel management, pay and logistics, prosecutions, procurement, training, and stronger security for Afghanistan’s legitimate economic assets such as mines.

 At the Warsaw Summit, NATO countries are expected to pledge about $5 billion to support Afghan forces through 2020, and President Barak Obama has already announced he will no longer draw down American forces to 5,500 by the end of this year, but instead maintain a higher troop presence there at least through 2017.

 These commitments are important, but the past fifteen years of NATO operations there, as well as the experience of international security assistance in places like Ukraine, Iraq, Mali, Yemen, and the Democratic Republic of Congo amply demonstrate that aggressive governance reforms and strengthening civil society involvement must be conducted in parallel with the provision of funding, training, and equipment. If reforms are an afterthought to security assistance, NATO’s important mission in Afghanistan will ultimately fail to bring security, a sustainable economy, human rights, and democratic governance. 

Corruption has repeatedly been acknowledged as a fatal threat to NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, but today, Afghanistan still ranks as #166 of 168 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.  Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s forces remain riddled with the problems of corruption: “ghost soldiers,” equipment that is pilfered before reaching troops, fraud in procurement, illegal checkpoints, involvement in narcotics and illegal mining, and officer appointments based on nepotism or payoffs rather than merit and commitment to the Afghan nation.  As Global Witness has documented in its recent report, Afghanistan desperately needs a professional, vetted security force to secure mining and other natural resource sites in places like Badakhshan. The lack of such forces has led to massive looting of natural resources and enormous losses of government revenue, created widespread disillusionment among local communities, and helped fuel the rise of armed groups and the insurgency.  

Until reform is considered a security issue and a strategic priority commensurate with providing dollars, guns, and training, then the blood and treasure expended by the Afghan people and NATO troops alike will be in vain.