Failure of the Current Anti-Corruption Strategy in Afghanistan

9 Journal of Contract Management 41 (2011)

University of Baltimore School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper

25 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2015

See all articles by Hugh McClean

Hugh McClean

University of Baltimore - School of Law

Date Written: August 15, 2011


Corruption has come to the forefront in Afghanistan as the United States tries to balance efforts to back anticorruption strategies while maintaining a positive relationship with the Karzai government. Stalled corruption cases suggest corruption in Afghanistan is systemic and not limited to a particular governing body or official. It is clear that corruption exists in both the upper and lower echelons of Afghan society, and will continue to exist until the U.S.-backed anticorruption teams are accepted by the Afghan government. The strengthening of key institutions continues to be the recommended international model. As demonstrated in the United States, the integration and overlap of these institutions offers an effective means of combating corruption. These mechanisms, however, have been ineffective in a number of south-central Asia countries. Afghanistan’s unique history and clan structure may provide some rational for these failures. Two socioeconomic models, the principal-agent model and collective action theory, offer perspectives on how Afghanistan’s history and clan structure is inhibiting the implementation of traditional anticorruption tools. A strong clan history that loathes outsiders and rewards clan loyalties will not yield to strong U.S. anticorruption mechanisms. The Afghan drug trade offers a glimpse into the patron-client relationships that clans rely on, and demonstrates how the Taliban provide a network of resources to assist the drug mafias and transnational criminal organizations. A strong-arm approach to corruption, like that embraced by the Obama administration, will probably not succeed for a number of years. Before these regulatory mechanisms can work, the clans must be convinced of the credibility of these mechanisms.

Keywords: international anticorruption, Afghanistan clan structure, principal-agent model, collective action theory, foreign policy, international model, drug trade, drug mafias, transnational criminal organizations

JEL Classification: K14, K19, K33, K42, K49, N45, Z10

Suggested Citation

McClean, Hugh, Failure of the Current Anti-Corruption Strategy in Afghanistan (August 15, 2011). 9 Journal of Contract Management 41 (2011), University of Baltimore School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Hugh McClean (Contact Author)

University of Baltimore - School of Law ( email )

1420 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
United States


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