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Book review: Thieves of State – Why Corruption Threatens Global Security March 27, 2015

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Afghanistan, Guest authors , comments closed

Mark Beeson

Once in a while, a book comes along that forces you to rethink some basic assumptions. I had come to believe that corruption didn’t really matter that much because economic growth seemed to happen anyway.

In some circumstances, it seemed corruption might even have a functional purpose. China was the quintessential exemplar of this possibility. Having read Thieves of State – Why Corruption Threatens Global Security by Sarah Chayes, I can now see how complacent and ill-informed some of those assumptions actually were.

Under former president Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan was little more than a ‘vertically integrated criminal organisation’, according to a new book. EPA/Parwiz Sabawoon

Under former president Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan was little more than a ‘vertically integrated criminal organisation’, according to a new book. EPA/Parwiz Sabawoon

Thieves of State has two great merits over and above its important central thesis about why corruption threatens global security. First, much of the analysis is based on first-hand observations of the pernicious impact of corruption in pivotally important states such as Afghanistan.

Second, Chayes writes with a journalistic eye for detail that enlivens what might otherwise be a worthy but unread scholarly treatise. The book ought to be read and Chayes’ accessible prose ensures it will be.

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Karzai visit further strengthens Afghanistan-Iran ties July 8, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

This article first appeared in Future Directions International on 6 July 2011.

Background

In another sign of growing ties between Afghanistan and Iran, Afghan President Hamid Karzai attended the Iranian-sponsored conference on counterterrorism co-operation in Tehran on 25-26 June, which was also attended by the Presidents of Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan and Tajikistan. The visit was indicative of the strengthening relations between Afghanistan and Iran, which share a 936-kilometre border, and see themselves as increasingly important to each other’s long-term interests.

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The Afghan presidential elections: some scenarios August 18, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, Maley, William , comments closed

William Maley

With Afghanistan’s presidential election only days away, the political temperature is beginning to rise notably. A suicide bomb blast outside NATO-ISAF headquarters in the heart of Kabul on Saturday August 15 pointed to the capacity of Taliban militants to strike at a heavily-protected targets, and a ‘night-letter’ (shabnamah) posted near mosques in Kandahar on 16 August signaled a direct threat to polling places in Afghanistan’s south. The Taliban seem to be keen to strike at Afghanistan’s election where they can. But the exact nature of the outcome that they are seeking remains obscure. Their aim may be to wreck the electoral process as a whole, but it might also be to strike a direct blow against President Karzai.

The presidential election will be conducted using a variant of the French system. If no candidate secures more than 50% of the vote in the first round of voting (scheduled for 20 August), then a second round (notionally scheduled for 1 October) will be held between the two candidates who did best in the first round. President Karzai won only 55.4% of the vote in the October 2004 election, when according to Asia Foundation polling, 64% of respondents believed the country was going in the right direction. It would be astounding if in 2009, when the most recent Asia Foundation polling suggests that only 38% of respondents believed the country was going in the right direction, he were still able to win more than 50%. In all the circumstances, a run-off seems highly likely; a first-round Karzai victory would likely trigger a rish of fraud allegations. (more…)