A discussion draft on fighting corruption in Afghanistan prepared in 2007 by, among others, the World Bank, the UN Development Program, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime concluded after a review of governance indicators that "Afghanistan is fairly close to the bottom among countries in terms of the seriousness of the corruption problem."
The grave disconnect is that neither General McChyrstal nor the Administration have articulated in meaningful detail how this cancer of Afghan corruption will be treated. McChrystal's report talks vaguely about improving transparency both in the Afghan government and in international assistance to Afghanistan (which, he says, is also rife with "corrupt and counterproductive practices.....too often [large development] projects enrich power brokers [and] corrupt officials"). He has all of one paragraph on rule of law. And he throws the problem over to a "cadre of civilian experts" who will be part of the build up.
Similarly, the Administration talks in general, conclusory terms about how to combat Afghan corruption . It recently sent to the Congress a draft of the "metrics" to be used in periodically assessing U.S. progress in Afghanistan (and Pakistan). A copy was published by Foreign Policy magazine. The measurements outlined in this short document are simply ends, not means: effectiveness of Afghan government in collecting revenues; public perceptions of Afghan rule of law at national, provincial and local levels; demonstrable action by the government against corruption; successful interdiction and prosecution of high-profile naro-traffickers.
So we are left with profound questions---which Administration policy makers must answer and Congressional and others must examine---about how it will address Afghan corruption. These more precise operational questions are of great importance because, as the last 50 years of post-colonial experience have shown, anticorruption, especially when it involves state capture and a strong kleptocratic class, is one of the most difficult and intractable problems in failing states like Afghanistan, which lack transparent, accountable and legitimate institutions to order political, economic and administrative affairs.
National aid programs (like those in the US and UK) or programs of international financing institutions (like the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank) or reformers in failed, failing and fragile states have all sought to address this intractable problem in the context of development agenda that focuses on both spurring economic growth and building institutional infrastructure. And there has been, of course, an outpouring of writing on anticorruption and development.
One conclusion is that processes are depend on each nation's history and culture, and they are slow, complex, fraught with difficulty and, thus far, often unsuccessful. Another conclusion is that anticorruption and broader development in failed states must start from within---outsiders can help but cannot command. Diverse writing from many disciplines elaborate these themes: development (e.g, Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion); economics (e.g. Dani Rodrik, One Economics, , Many Recipies: Globalization, Economics and Economic Growth); political science (Francis Fukuyama, State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century; multi-disciplinary (e.g. Robert Rotberg, ed., Corruption, Global Security and World Order).