In Afghanistan under the Karzai administration, the rampant culture of corruption and especially graft from low-level police officers, who receive low salaries and are said to take bribes to subsist, to the highest level of government officials, became a major source of general discontent and cynicism. Many interactions with authorities require shirini – like getting a new driver's license or paying a water or electricity bill.
This discontent drove a wedge between the government and the Afghan people, who under this administration grew more and more resentful of the established politics. It would turn people toward the fundamentalist Taliban, which were perceived as relatively "clean".
By the western donors of Afghanistan and also by Afghan politicians, taming corruption is seen as crucial to the future of the country; all candidates in the presidential elections in 2009 pledged to fight it.
According to a survey by Integrity Watch Afghanistan in 2007, the average Afghan household had to pay round about $100 yearly in petty bribes, while 70 percent of the families in the poverty-stricken country survive on less than $1 a day.
The report of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) titled Corruption in Afghanistan: Bribery as Reported by Victims, published in January 2010, calculated that Afghans had paid a staggering $1.2 billion bribes over a 12-month period ending Autumn 2009 – roughly equal to one quarter of the national GDP.