The Mafia That Threatens Afghanistan by Javid Ahmad – Wall Street Journal
Afghanistan will hold two crucial elections in the next seven months: a parliamentary vote in October and a presidential election in April. The outcomes could help sustain a steady course for the teenage democracy, and jockeying is under way among political factions. But a rise in organized political violence threatens to taint the elections and derail the nation’s progress toward stable governance.
More than at any time since the Taliban was ousted in 2001, rampant criminality has returned to the heart of Afghanistan’s politics. Kabul is overrun with mafia-style networks that control the national drug trade and bring violence to the streets with armed robberies and factional warfare. The crime wave has seriously debilitated political stability and internal security, as each criminal syndicate attempts to use the government to protect its business and ensure its longevity.
Many Afghan politicians and strongmen engage in or support these organized criminal activities. Drug smuggling, land grabbing, extortion, illegal mining, kidnapping, revenue theft, torture and arbitrary detention all take place under the protection of the strongmen who serve in government. Some prominent political groups also retain private militias. Controlling territory with an armed presence allows parties to distribute spoils to their supporters and actively intimidate their opponents…