Before he can defend Afghanistan’s government from the Taliban, Barack Obama may need to save it from itself. Bribery and corruption are astonishingly pervasive in Afghanistan, Dexter Filkins reports in the New York Times. Everything from settling a lawsuit to getting electricity to entering an airport requires a bribe, and officials at the highest levels of government—including Hamid Karzai’s own brother—have been accused of involvement in the opium trade.
Jobs, safe passage across the country, and release from prison all have their price. “God knows, it is beyond the limit,” says Karzai. “The banks of the world are full of the money of our statesmen.” But many lay the blame for all of it at Karzai’s feet. One former finance minister says Karzai expressly forbade him to regulate the corrupt real estate market. “A shadow government has taken over,” he says. “The narco-mafia state is now completely consolidated.”