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Former Afghan Interior Minister Discusses Corruption, Transition Date On Call-In Show

Guests take part in a discussion on "On The Waves of Freedom" in Radio Azadi's studio in Kabul.
Guests take part in a discussion on "On The Waves of Freedom" in Radio Azadi's studio in Kabul.
Every Thursday, RFE’s Afghanistan service, Radio Azadi, broadcasts a two-hour call-in show titled “On The Waves of Freedom.” Hosted by Zarif Nazar and Jan Alekozai, the show focuses on current events, politics, and social issues, with high-ranking officials and leading experts taking direct questions from listeners in Afghanistan via SMS, e-mail, and telephone.

On this week’s show, Radio Azadi discussed the NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal, and the 2014 deadline for international forces in Afghanistan to turn over operations to the Afghan national police and army. Joining the discussion were former Afghan Interior Minister and ex-presidential candidate Ali Ahmed Jalali; Abdul Haq Amiri, regional head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia; and RFE Associate Director of Broadcasting Akbar Ayazi, who recently briefed NATO officials on the political situation in Afghanistan.

Jalali stressed that the 2014 date was a goal to work toward rather than a firm deadline for the withdrawal of international forces, arguing that stability will ultimately determine when international forces depart -- which could easily mean a couple more decades of some sort of international support for Afghanistan. He also discussed political issues and corruption -- and corruption perceptions -- in Afghan politics.

Amiri noted that the people of Afghanistan have four main enemies working against them: poverty, illiteracy, corruption, and narcotics. He noted that large portions of the aid money that pours into Afghanistan ends up in the hands of people who are not actually in need of it. He said that corruption with regard to aid money fueled a lack of confidence in the government, boosting anti-government forces.

One listener, calling from Nangarhar Province, agreed with both guests on the need to clean up corruption, telling the show that Afghanistan would never be a functional state if its politicians “continued to take political revenge on each other instead of working to help the Afghan people.”

Jalali responded that, while corruption was certainly a major issue in Afghanistan, things had improved over the last year in Afghanistan, and were continuing to do so. He also noted improvements in security and confidence for Afghans living in Southern Afghanistan, where “people are now cooperating with and supporting the government.”

Matiullah Kharoti, a caller from Kabul, agreed with an earlier point from Akbar Ayazi on the preparedness and makeup of Afghanistan’s national police and army, saying that neither force was truly a “national” one representing all the people of Afghanistan. Interestingly, another caller -- Karim, from Helmand -- called in to disagree on the importance of equal representation in the national forces, telling listeners that plenty of people had the opportunity to join the army or police, but simply chose not to so that they could continue doing jobs they knew, like farming and construction.

Ayazi pointed out that people from Oruzgan and other southern provinces make up only around 2 percent of the Afghan national police and army -- a number not representative of the overall population in the area.

Karim said that many people had reservations about international forces in Afghanistan and that there is widespread understanding that a more competent and professional Afghan force is crucial if international forces are to leave Afghanistan.

Overall, this edition of our show highlighted the crucial point the Afghan government, the international community, and the Afghan people found themselves in as a very important NATO summit was set to kick off in Lisbon.

-- Jan Alekozai & Zarif Nazar, Radio Azadi