In an alarming dispatch from Afghanistan, the Conservative MP reveals the rampant corruption that has infected public life and threatens to destroy Nato’s hopes of bringing peace to this traumatised country
It is time to face facts in Afghanistan: the situation is spiralling downwards, and if we do not change our approach, we face disaster. Violence is up in two-thirds of the country, narcotics are the main contributor to the economy, criminality is out of control and the government is weak, corrupt and incompetent. The international coalition is seen as a squabbling bunch of foreigners who have not delivered on their promises. Although the Taliban have nowhere near majority support, their standing is growing rapidly among some ordinary Afghans.
In Kabul, foreign delegations huddle behind concrete and barbed wire, often with the Afghans’ main roads shut. That causes jams throughout the city, exacerbated by convoys of armoured four-wheel drives loaded with bodyguards that push their way through the traffic. These vehicles carry warning signs telling ordinary Afghans that the occupants reserve the right to shoot anyone who comes within 50 metres. Afghans veer between resentment of the high-handed foreigners and fear of the Taliban, who appear to be inexorably seizing the provinces around the city.
In Britain’s area of responsibility, Helmand, the governor admits the Taliban control most of the province. While we were, properly, celebrating the delivery of the turbine to the Kajaki dam, we were being forced out of one of the richest poppy growing areas, and the Taliban fought their way to within 12km of Lashkar Gar, the provincial capital. Time after time, our soldiers win tactical victories, only to have the advantage lost because of a lack of coherent international strategy.
The regime we are defending is corrupt from top to bottom. While the President’s brother faces accusations of being a drug baron, some three-quarters of the Afghan National Police actively steal from the people. The irony is that Afghan expectations of government are traditionally low, and their faith in President Hamid Karzai was initially high.