What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Monday, February 4, 2008

A government-insurgency nexus?

The day before yesterday I hinted at the end of a post at how corruption has the potential of fueling a guerrilla war, through magnifying inequalities in a society and the frustration thus created. That's a simple theory, but reality can produce even more simplicity. So corruption can fuel a guerrilla war... by allowing captured guerrillas to get back to their 360-degree playground. Excerpts from an excellent Newsweek article, that in the name of good governance, and whatever that means, I say thou shalt read. Because this is not what good governance means:
" Bari was facing a decade or more in prison—if he survived. The NDS, controlled by a powerful and nearly untouchable political clique from the Panjshir Valley, runs its own secret court system. Canadian forces in Afghanistan stopped transferring captured Taliban to the directorate three months ago, because of allegations of NDS torture and corruption. But Bari's cousin acted quickly. By the third day, Bari says, she got in to visit him at the NDS lockup, bringing him food and paying off officers to stop beating and interrogating him. Instead of being hauled before a clandestine NDS court and sentenced, 52 days after his arrest Bari was back in the field with Taliban forces. The price, he says, was $1,100 in bribes to NDS officers. He also says the main topic of conversation among Taliban inmates was how payoffs were being arranged for their release.
"It's funny," says Jumah Khan. "We kill each other on the battlefield, but once a mujahedin is arrested, the police become friendly for a price." "
It's all running extremely smoothly. These guys have long since figured out what an escrow account means in practice:
" Mohammad's brother was able to strike a ransom deal: he would deposit $8,000 with a Kabul money-changer, who would release the cash to NDS officers once their prisoner was free. Two months later Mohammad walked out of the NDS detention center and phoned the money-changer, telling him the NDS men could have their $8,000. So far the Taliban's agents have repaid the family for half that amount. "
The last sentence there is very interesting. The family gets compensated for the trouble. That is... because the Taliban operate a BRIBERY FUND. Which, according to Newsweek, amounts to $500,000 for the southern provinces alone.
So imagine, so much money exchanges hands... Well, you should be more imaginative, in fact. There's even more money changing hands between the supposedly opposing sides. The drugs trade fuels corruption, and lines quite a few officials' pocket, southern and northern alike, in the process. It also gives direct profit to some traffickers even in the northern areas. Weapons are needed in the south, and one of the sources from which you can get those is the north of the country. And so on.
People often mention the insurgency-narcotics nexus. And the insurgency-terrorism nexus. And the terrorism-narcotics nexus. Even the government-narcotics nexus sometimes. Et cetera. But it seems like one might talk about a government-insurgency nexus as well, in a structural sense. And an insurgent-warlord nexus. And so on. The all-Afghan nexus. Call it inverse nation-building if you like, but you don't really have to like this. I'm sure the majority of Afghans don't like it, either. It's just about how structural constraints make people do weird things to survive.
Just one more thing. Imagine the perspective of an Afghan prisoner who gets to jail not as an insurgent, and, lacking a generous patron, has to watch how insurgents can get out relatively easily.

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