Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance [October 11, 2011]   [open pdf - 651KB]

"Afghan governing capacity has increased significantly since the Taliban regime fell in late 2001, but many positions, particularly at the local level, are unfilled. Many governing functions are performed at least informally by unaccountable power brokers. A dispute over the results of the 2010 parliamentary elections paralyzed governance for nearly a year and was resolved in September 2011 with the unseating on the grounds of fraud of nine winners of the elected lower house of parliament. Karzai also has tried, through direct denials, to quell assertions by his critics that he wants to stay in office beyond the 2014 expiration of his second term, the limits under the constitution. Widespread illiteracy limits expansion of a competent bureaucracy. On corruption, President Hamid Karzai has accepted U.S. help to build emerging anti-corruption institutions, but these same institutions have sometimes caused a Karzai backlash when they have targeted his allies or relatives. Efforts against corruption also run up against an Afghan culture that rewards appointing and letting contracts to relatives and friends. Effects of corruption burst into public view in August 2010 when the large Kabul Bank nearly collapsed due in part to losses on large, poorly documented loans to major shareholders, many of whom are close to Karzai. That issue, too, appears closer to resolution with the prosecution of several individuals allegedly responsible for the scandal and an International Monetary Fund (IMF) announcement in October that it would restore its credit program for Afghanistan. Broader issues of human rights often vary depending on the security environment in particular regions, although some trends prevail nationwide. The State Department human rights report for 2010 attributes many of the human rights abuses in Afghanistan to overall lack of security, traditional conservative attitudes that are widely prevalent, and the weakness of government control over outlying localities. Women have made substantial gains in government and the private sector since the fall of the Taliban but many organizations report substantial backsliding, particularly in areas where the insurgency operates."

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CRS Report for Congress, RS21922
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