Based on unprecedented empirical research conducted with lower levels of the Afghan police, this unique study assesses how institutional legacy and external intervention, from countries including the UK and the US, have shaped the structural conditions of corruption in the police force and the state.
Taking a social constructivist approach, the book combines an in-depth analysis of internal political, cultural and economic drivers with references to several regime changes affecting policing and security, from the Soviet occupation and Mujahidin militias to Taliban religious police.
Crossing disciplinary boundaries, Singh offers an invaluable contribution to the literature and to anti-corruption policy in developing and conflict-affected societies.
This chapter examines the pre-existing definitions of what corruption entails starting from the abuse of public office for private authority to forms of political and divisional advantage. Definitions of police corruption follow to analyse a variety of activities that qualify as police malfeasance related to famously cited criminological literature concerning typologies. The typologies list the activities that range from corruption of authority, kickbacks and finally planting of evidence (that includes drugs). Integrity violations are then examined to cover a broader range of police malpractices such as moonlighting and criminal activity in private time. Moreover, the debate of bending rules which includes the use of the ‘magic pencil’, perjury or excessive means of coercion for a noble and/or justified outcome as part of departmental advantage is reached.
The second chapter opens with the rationale behind commissions on inquiry in the aftermath of a police corruption scandal to expose the truth and provide recommendations to mitigate institutional corruption. The cases of the New York and New South Wales police forces are examined with the responses of the relevant commissions. The commissions stated that the police seniors attempted to blame ‘a few bad apples’ but the commissioners exposed that it was rather ‘a rotten orchard’ that pointed at systemic corruption and high forms of police solidarity that can evade dealing with embedded corruption. The ‘slippery slope’ analogy infers that police officers socialise milder grass-eating forms of corruption – such as accepting minor gratuities – to more severe meat-eating corruption such as engaging in vice areas within a self-perpetuating system in which all parties benefit in corrupt transactions. The chapter closes by analysing a range of cases that have trialled pay reform, rotation strategy and anti-corruption training initiatives to mitigate police corruption.
The third chapter thematically engages with the intertwined initiatives of post-conflict reconstruction, statebuilding, peacebuilding and security sector reform. A few short examples of United Nations interim administrations in Cambodia, Kosovo and East Timor are provided that reformed main state institutions from scratch. The forthcoming sections examine post-conflict policing contexts in Haiti and Iraq in order to determine some similarities and differences to Afghanistan. Some comparisons include the focus to fight an insurgency with a paramilitary police force, particularly in post-9/11 settings to conform to reshuffled counterinsurgency strategy. This has created confusion with European efforts of police training in both Iraq and Afghanistan which are at odds with paramilitary policing. The chapter will illustrate that longer-term training programmes and mentoring can help mitigate police corruption and confusion with mandates which partially worked with UN involvement in Haiti. The final part analyses several developing contexts that share high levels of police corruption, brutality and criminality.
This is another theoretical chapter that generates a framework to thread through the context of Afghan policing. Theories related to a political economy approach to examine the interrelationship between bureaucratic agents and economic elites and the coping strategies of poorly waged public officials and police officers. This theoretical basis informs some aspects of the political and economic drivers of corruption. The political drivers specifically cover systemic corruption which is when corruption becomes institutionally embedded from the top to the lower levels. In addition, patronage, nepotism and ethnic favouritism forms a ‘moral economy’ to deter meritocratic recruitment. Moreover, state capture occurs when main parts of the state are infiltrated by narrow criminal and affiliated political interests for profit making, usually with illicit markets. The economic drivers are focused on corruption as a means of economic necessity, namely low pay, and opportunities to engage in corruption due to weak oversight or limited sanctions if detected for malpractice. The cultural drivers cover culture, motivation and the socialisation of behaviour within police forces and specific anti-corruption training that can help to mitigate police corruption.
This chapter starts the process of examining the structural conditions that has embedded corruption in the majority of Afghan institutions. Moreover, trailing powerful figures – such as warlords – have cemented ties with political elites in exchange of securitising remote areas and attaining votes for those in power. The initial part of the chapter covers external intervention since late 2001 which conformed to the liberal peace doctrine. This democratisation process resulted in a rapid political arrangement at Bonn which inaugurated Hamid Karzai as the chair of the interim authority and anti-Taliban warlords – the Northern Alliance – were favoured to hunt the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the rugged mountains. Several Northern Alliance strongmen who held powerful militias were selected in the presidential cabinet and senior chief of military staff positions. This system formed patronage relations and forms of systemic corruption linked with illicit profit-making that trickled into the majority of state institutions, including the police sector. The subsequent parts of the chapter examine the several phases of regime changes within the Afghan police sector, the repercussions corruption has on the police sector and society and current anti-corruption efforts.
This short chapter unpacks the social construction of corruption which is then linked to the Afghan context. The morality of acts, corruption being deemed as an immoral act, evilness and dirtiness is contrasted with corruption forming the basis of a social contract or connections to get things done. This debate provides the contention between wickedness and undermining red tape to benefit political and economic integration under a functionalist model. In particular, examples derive from Afghan civil servants who are poorly paid and thus the public recognise that a gift is required to speed-up the service process which in turn engrains corruption in everyday interactions. Gift-giving is subsequently discussed in the contexts of China and Russia to maintain personal relationships and recognisable circles respectively. These contexts infer that gift-giving practices are practices to preserve business and social relations in a variety of contexts which differ from Western criminological literature deeming it as corruption or an integrity violation.
This chapter is main analysis data. It specifically presents the empirical data collected in the field which includes interview responses on the problems with security sector reform, police reform, the rule of law and corruption. In addition, low-ranked police officer’s perceptions on corruption, recruitment, training, salaries and the cost of living are examined with responses on the survey and structured interviews conducted. All these reactions are illustrated via the theoretical framework that is based on the political, economic and cultural drivers of corruption. The political drivers reveal that meritocratic recruitment is severely tarnished from patronage, nepotism and favouritism and police officers retain loyalty to local commanders and warlords rather than the state. In addition, criminal entities have captured main parts of the state to entice political elites in illicit drug-trading which has hindered anti-corruption investigations and promoted cronyism to protect political elites from serious forms of corruption. The economic drivers show that low pay intensifies petty forms of corruption, namely bribery and roadside extortion, to supplement income. The cultural drivers infer that pride, motivation and sense of mission are lacking in the current Afghan police force and unprofessionalism is a main meaning of police corruption.
The penultimate chapter analyses anti-corruption efforts within the Afghan police sector with reference to the responses provided by the interviewee, survey and structured interview respondents. It initially covers the interior ministry’s internal anti-corruption strategy which is supported by both the European Union Police Mission in Afghanistan and Major Crimes Task Force. Subsequently, efforts to mitigate payroll fraud with a biometric validation system is provided which is facing some technical difficulties. In addition, training efforts are examined which are too short to train the police force measures on anti-corruption, particularly for many officers who remain either literate or semi-literature. Further strategies to combat corruption and the development of patronage relations are examined. These include pay and rank reform phases that aimed to reduce the top heavy police generals, increase street-level police and increase their salaries. Despite several phases of pay reform, wages remain low to cover for living costs and the recruitment strategies remain hindered from patronage relations. As a measure to combat patronage and retaining loyalty to tribal elders and warlords rather than the state, rotation strategy was recommended by international actors and endorsed by the interior ministry which inadvertently resulted in further economic hardship.
The closing chapter of the book summarises the main arguments made. It commences with a critical assessment of statebuilding and neo-liberal police reconstruction in Afghanistan and a short comparison to the parallel study of Iraq. The Bonn political arrangement that resulted in the favouring of Northern Alliance warlords and anti-Taliban warlords and political elites enticed in the drug-industry seriously impedes law enforcement and interferes with anti-corruption investigations. Subsequently, the conditions of the Afghan state from several regimes of fighting, policing styles and pre-existing patronage systems have become embedded in contemporary Afghanistan. These structural conditions of patronage, institutionalised forms of corruption and post-2001 short-term peace bargaining with ruthless warlords make it extremely difficult to combat corruption and patronage. The final section reflects on the main challenges framed within the political, economic and cultural drivers of police corruption in the context of Afghanistan and how these traits can be carried forward to measure and deter instability in other war-torn states.