San Francisco Chronicle – Insight Letters 9/20/09

New threat: atmosphere of corruption in Kabul

Tamim Ansary’s conclusion that U.S. aid has failed to reach the grass roots and instead is going into the pockets of foreign contractors is a sad truth (“Finding a way out of the quagmire,” Insight, Sept. 13), but reaching the grass roots is easier said than done as the atmosphere of corruption in Kabul has become a greater threat than the Taliban.

With the help of Global Exchange and private donors, Parwaz Microfinance Organization was established as the first Afghan-run organization of its kind, employing no high-priced foreigners as it provided small loans to widows and other women in need. Alas, when an employee was caught stealing, it was the Parwaz director who fired her who went to jail. The embezzler, who had a relative who was a bodyguard to the vice president, remains uncharged in spite of meetings with the Ministry of Justice, and Parwaz has had to hire a high-priced foreigner for protection, while its Afghan American founding director, who now heads all microfinance in Afghanistan, must travel in a phalanx of armored cars to avoid being kidnapped, not by the Taliban but by thugs working in collusion with the Kabul government.

The United States needs to help dedicated Afghans save their country – but mostly from the election-stealing Karzai government it has created.

Tom Miller, General Counsel, Global Exchange