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US Counter-Terrorism Aid Fueling Corruption

US Counter-Terrorism Aid

A British Special Forces operator training African Union Mission to Somalia and Somali national security forces in counter-terrorism operations. 

A report released this month through the Center for International Policy’s Security Assistance Monitor finds that U.S. counter-terrorism aid meant to bolster U.S. as well as allies’ efforts to combat violent extremists has also had the unintended results of fueling corruption and funding terrorist group activities and recruitment.

Colby Goodman and Christinia Arabia, the authors in the report, say although U.S. has included mechanisms designed to stymie the diversion of U.S. weapons along with other forms of security aid, “there continue to be important gaps in U.S. government efforts to gauge, monitor, and evaluate U.S. counter-terrorism aid, particularly in connection with corruption risks.”

“Corruption involves a great deal more compared to a waste of cash,” Goodman notes. “It also poses a grave danger to U.S. and global security by reducing the potency of U.S. counter-terror programs. In some instances, widespread corruption in military aid programs actually strengthens terrorist organizations by fueling anti-government sentiment, undermining the morale of front-line military personnel, and diverting U.S.-supplied equipment to groups like ISIS, the Taliban, and Al Qaeda within the Arabian Peninsula.”

The report finds two-thirds with the recipients of U.S. counter-terrorism aid pose “serious” corruption risks.

Routine practices for example nepotism within the recruitment and promotion system, bribery, extortion, the use of “ghost soldiers” to divert money from fictitious military “no shows” to high-ranking officials, and flawed purchasing practices all pose probably the most serious corruption risks.

Despite these risks, the United States continues to propose high numbers of counter-terrorism aid. The report says that from fiscal 2017 to fiscal 2019, the U.S. proposed an estimated $24 billion in U.S. counter-terrorism help to 36 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and South and East Asia.

Of those 36 countries, 24 have engaged in a minimum of three with the five key defense corruption practices who have fostered counter-terrorism challenges in the past. The key corruption indicators listed here are cited as nepotism; ghost soldiers; theft or delay of soldiers’ pay; bribery; and illicit economic activities on the part of a nation’s defense force.

These corruption practices improve the risk of human rights violations and coups as governments and military fragments, and disillusioned military personnel and youth are drawn toward extremist groups, in line with the report.

The report says that in “Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, and Burkina Faso, it seems that terrorist groups make use of popular grievances against corruption to assist encourage new recruitment’s or support from others for cause.”

For example, in Bangladesh, the report suggests, terrorist groups are seeking to recruit Bangladeshi soldiers that feel marginalized by recent purges in their ranks. The report notes similar installments of terrorist groups using corruption within their recruitment messaging going on in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria and Somalia.

To curb corruption, the authors recommend the U.S. strengthen risk assessments and provide in-depth risk reports on high-risk countries, specifically Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Chad, Egypt, Iraq, Kenya, Nigeria, the Philippines, Somalia and Uganda. The focus of such assessments should be to “map the structure of corrupt networks inside countries, including main revenue streams, external enablers and facilitators, and connections using the military,” and also possible organized crime, in line with the report.

The authors suggest these assessments be incorporated inside the Defense Department’s ongoing effort to write a new directive geared towards enhancing the ability to assess, monitor and evaluate U.S. security aid to foreign countries.

Building in conditions for using U.S. counter-terrorism aid may also be helpful. Goodman and Arabia say it might be imperative that you identify triggers that may spark a revision or termination of some kinds of counter-terrorism aid because of this effort to achieve success.

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