London – Transparency International (TI) had issued a warning to western governments, including Britain and U.S. that they need to set the fight against corruption a top priority in the ongoing battle against extremist groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram, particularly in the Middle East.
In a report entitled “The Big Spin: Corruption and the Growth of Violent Extremism” released on Tuesday, the non-governmental organization warned that governments fighting extremist groups will not be able to defeat them unless they end corruption in the military.
The report said that radical movements like ISIS thrive when people lose all faith in those in power, when officials profit from the misery of the many, when the police exploit rather than protect, and when economic opportunity is skewed in favor of the connected few.
In its report, TI said government corruption allows militants to take advantage of public anger to fuel recruiting, facilitate arms flows, and undermine public institutions such as the military, leaving them incapable of controlling extremist threats. Terrorist groups recruit fighters through social media posts that highlight the apathy of governments.
“Failure to recognize the root cause of extremism is undermining international efforts to respond to the threat posed by radical groups. Tackling corruption must be a first order priority,” TI stressed.
The report suggested practical steps that can be taken diplomatically, such as visa denials and asset freezing, to help begin to address “elite corruption”.
It added that the presence of an estimated 50,000 ghost soldiers among the ranks of the Iraqi Army meant that nobody could stand in the path of ISIS as it took over Mosul, and similar problems have affected the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria.
TI reiterated that Western governments need to rethink fundamentally their relationships with the Gaddafis, Assads and Malakis of the future.
Katherine Dixon, director of Transparency International Defense and Security and co-author of the report, said that corruption is a rallying cry, an enabler for ISIS.
“The failure to grasp this undermines efforts to tackle the rise of violent extremism,” she stressed.
The Director of TI warned that the governments will not succeed in defeating these extremist forces unless they address corruption at the highest levels.
Dixon concluded that too many Western governments focus on seeking to influence or moderate the behavior of corrupt autocrats because they see them as an alternative to instability, adding that: “in the end, corrupt governments are the architects of future security crises.”