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Survey: Afghans Pay $3 Billion in Bribes Annually

Afghanistan’s leaders pledged to clamp down on graft, but corrupt officials have hollowed out national security forces and are alienating local populations.

An anti-corruption watchdog says Afghans paid an estimated $3 billion in bribes in the past year, registering an almost 50 percent increase compared to 2014.

The findings are part of a biennial national corruption survey released Thursday by Integrity Watch Afghanistan.

According to the survey, "Respondents who dealt with the courts reported they were asked for bribes an astounding 55 percent of the time." Results were not much better when they dealt with prosecutors or municipal governments.

"The amount of bribes estimated is much higher than the Afghan government revenue estimates for 2016," the report says, describing corruption as the third-biggest problem Afghans face, following insecurity and unemployment.

The survey determined corruption is a major factor in fueling the Taliban insurgency and called for President Asharf Ghani’s government to introduce promised reforms.

The devastating level of corruption undermines state legitimacy and erodes public trust, said Sayed Ikram Afzali, the group’s executive director, while introducing the survey results in Kabul.

"Institutional capture coupled with petty bribes paid by citizens on a daily basis due to systemic corruption has become so serious that it threatens national security," he warned.

"The early euphoria that accompanied the inauguration of the National Unity Government in October 2014 has largely dissipated, leaving a populace that is disappointed, angry, and fearful about the future," the survey noted.

The government had no immediate reaction to the report's findings.

Foreign Minister Salahuddian Rabbani briefed NATO foreign ministers meeting Wednesday in Brussels on his country's anticorruption measures.

"Our central message remains clear: Afghanistan will spare no efforts to eliminate corruption and ensure accountable and transparent governance across Afghanistan," the minister vowed.

On Wednesday, the San Francisco-based Asia Foundation also released its annual survey of the Afghan people, which cited corruption among major issues facing the war-ravaged country.