The alleged corruption and abuse by Afghan leaders that the US ignored was a 'big factor' in the country's fall, human rights expert says

In a matter of weeks, the Afghan institutions that the US and its allies had been supporting for many years were destroyed.
Experts argue that one of the key problems was corruption at high levels and human rights violations at senior levels.

Insider was told by a source that the US and its allies chose the "least bad" partner in Afghanistan.

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Both the Afghan government and security forces were supported by the US and NATO allies for many years. However, they collapsed within weeks of each other.

These institutions collapsed, allowing the Taliban to retake Afghanistan. This raises many questions about what happened after decades of international support.

Experts believe that persistent allegations of corruption and abuse against Afghan leaders, which were mostly ignored by the US, its NATO allies, have hindered efforts to create a government that could withstand the Taliban and gain strong popular support to meet Afghanistan's demands.

A three-star Afghan army general and Gen. Sami Sadat blamed American politics in a New York Times column. He also blamed Afghanistan's leaders for the collapse, which he described as a "national tragedy that rotted our government" and military.

Generals were appointed through connections and not capability. There were soldiers in Afghan security forces who existed only on paper. Supply lines were also disrupted by officials who took away essential resources. Experts said that the problems in Afghanistan were deeper.

Patricia Gossman is a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch who interviewed Afghan officials and has conducted on-the ground investigations in Afghanistan. She told Insider that corruption and human rights abuses were "a major factor" in Afghanistan's fall.

The US and its allies aligned with "some very famous figures reviled in many communities that were in them because of past atrocities," Gossman said to Insider. He explained that they also empowered problematic individuals for short-sighted purposes.

Ryan Crocker was a career diplomat and served the US as ambassador to Afghanistan under the Obama administration. He once told the Special Inspector General of Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), about a very uncomfortable encounter with Mohammed Fahim. Fahim was an Afghan defense minister that later became a vice-president.

Fahim laughed as he told Crocker about another senior Afghan minister who was killed. The ambassador recalled the story in a conversation that was part of The Washington Post’s "Afghanistan Papers." Crocker later revealed that Fahim may have actually killed the official.

Crocker stated that he felt "certainly" that he had "come out of those first months feeling like, even according to Afghan standards", he was "in the presence of an absolutely evil person."

Afghan officials, including those in the military and police, have been charged with crimes that range from corruption to murder, torture and war crimes.

According to Human Rights Watch, Asadullah Khan Khalid, the Afghan president's defense minister, was allegedly involved in or ordered torture, sexual violence and extrajudicial murders.

Abdul Rashid Dostum is a former vice president of Afghanistan and later a top Afghan military leader. He is charged with war crimes including suffocating enemy ships and kidnapping others.

Abdul Raziq was a strong Afghan National Police Chief until his death. He was accused of operating secret detention centres and ordering torture and other extrajudicial killings.

After a patrol through a village near Kandahar on March 5, 2014, soldiers with the U.S. Army’s 4th Squadron 2nd Cavalry Regiment (ANA) returned to their vehicles. Scott Olson/Getty Images

"Choosing the best partner"

Experts believe that problems at the top can lead to more problems at lower levels. Gossman stated that there was a sense that no one was accountable for any of the problems. "You have a trickle-down lack of accountability."

Insider spoke with a US Army veteran who served in Afghanistan during the war. He revealed that he met police officers that were willing to pay bribes for information about the Taliban and security checkpoints that had made agreements with the Taliban.

Other veterans have had similar experiences. Capt. Capt.

Quinn stated to The New York Times that they came here because they heard about the Taliban's terrible acts and how they were taking away people's rights.

"But," he said, "we were putting people in power who would do things worse than the Taliban did that was something village leaders voiced to me."

According to The Washington Post's Afghanistan Papers, a senior US official reflected on 2015's situation in Afghanistan and stated that "our money was supporting a lot of people," adding that there was "massive resentment among Afghan people."

Another US official stated that they were "giving out contracts to pretty horrible people, empowering people we shouldn’t have empowered, to achieve our own goals."

"Successive US governments have largely viewed human rights more as an obstruction than as an essential part of addressing Afghanistan’s problems," Gossman stated in a recent Just Security column. He also said that this approach was "catastrophic."

Insider was told by Gossman that it affected the government's legitimacy. Gossman has spent many years documenting human rights violations in Afghanistan. Although it may not have made people want to join the Taliban, they might have considered the Taliban a better choice in certain situations.

Sarah Chayes, who managed non-governmental organizations in Afghanistan, and was a senior advisor for US military leaders in Afghanistan, said last month to PBS that "Afghan officials would shake people down at any interaction."

She said that it was almost as if the United States supported this system from Afghans' point of view, since our officials were always seen working with these venal Afghan leaders."

Chayes stated that she worked with the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff 2011 and interagency policy was not to acknowledge high-level corruption or other misdeeds.

"Why would a people risk their lives to fight the Taliban for a government that treats them nearly as harshly as the Taliban?" She asked.

However, not all interactions between NATO and the US with their Afghan partners were without problems.

"Did you back bad horses in the country?" Erol Yayboke, a Center for Strategic and International Studies expert and former international development contractor, said that it was possible there was a mixture of good and bad actors.

"I believe the question is not so much did we back a poor horse, but were there other options? People who have spent many years in Afghanistan will tell you that backing corrupt people was an option. Or, they can leave.

Yayboke stated that the US leaders were largely opposed to leaving and "we had no choice but to find some local partners." I think there were many people out there who would argue that it wasn't choosing the best partner in most cases. It was choosing the best partner.

He stated, "I believe that the decisions people made, including those in the field and American leaders, were based primarily upon the least bad options."