Resilience in Kabul: Afghans Take on Corruption to Rebuild their Country

“I have a life in Kabul,” insisted Seema Ghani, Executive Director of the Monitoring Evaluation Committee (MEC), a joint Afghan and international body dedicated to transparency and accountability in Afghanistan. Ms. Ghani explained that, despite the many challenges that Afghans face, significant progress has been made towards stabilizing parts of the country. She argued that Westerners forget that people are trying and, in her experience, succeeding in getting on with their lives.

On Friday at the International Anti-Corruption Conference in Brasilia, representatives from government, civil society, and the military held a press conference on the achievements and challenges of fighting corruption in Afghanistan. Panelists shared their unexpected success stories in dealing with the Afghan government as well as their concerns about the politics at home and abroad.

“I admit that I was considering resigning until March of this year,” reflected Ms. Ghani. “But then I started to see the progress with my own eyes. I decided to continue and since I’ve seen 98% of our benchmarks implemented.”

Yet critics are concerned that the civil society developments could be reversed in the absence of international forces in the coming years. In June of 2011, United States President Barack Obama announced a plan for a full troop withdrawal by 2014. The statement followed the U.S. assassination of Osama bin Laden in May of 2011, with President Obama declaring that the U.S. had largely achieved its goals in Afghanistan. Currently over 86,000 American troops remain in Afghanistan, though significant troop withdrawals are already under way.

Violent conflict, however, still plagues parts of Afghanistan, particularly in former Taliban strongholds. According to The New York Times, alarming attacks on areas considered to be the safest in Afghanistan have shaken both Afghan and international confidence in the future of an independent Afghanistan.

At the press conference, representatives also expressed their concerns about the lack of certainty past 2014; however, the civil society organizations firmly expressed their optimism about the strength of their progress.

“Everyone’s talking as if 2014 is the end of the world,” said Ms. Ghani. “But our lives will go on. None of us will be leaving, we’re committed to our work here in our country, and our lives are almost normal. We will stay behind and continue the way we can.”

Nargis Nehan, the Executive Director of the Afghan NGO Equality for Peace & Democracy (EPD), echoed the words of Ms. Ghani, adding her frustration with the portrayal of Afghanistan in the media.

“People act like civil society didn’t exist in Afghanistan before 2001, and that is just not the case,” stated Ms. Nehan. “Before, civil society organizations provided many of the services that government didn’t.”

The 2014 withdrawal will close the military invasion and occupation of Afghanistan that began in 2001.


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