From Karzai down, Afghanistan is ‘rife with corruption’
KABUL: US diplomatic messages revealed yesterday portray Afghanistan as rife with graft to the highest levels of government, with tens of millions of dollars flowing out of the country and a cash transfer network that facilitates bribes for corrupt Afghan officials, drug traffickers and insurgents.
Details from messages released by WikiLeaks could further erode support for the war. Heavy pressure had been applied to President Hamid Karzai to fight corruption but with little success.
The graft is shown to be coming directly from the top. A report in August last year from Kabul says Karzai and his attorney general “allowed dangerous individuals to go free or re-enter the battlefield without ever facing an Afghan court”.
Some of the graft is believed to go on to benefit insurgent networks. A message on December 27, last year from the US embassy in Kabul said Paktia provincial governor Jume Khan Hamdard has been accused of arresting contractors at job sites to get bribe money. According to the communique, Hamdard also funnels money from bribes and drug and jewel smuggling operations to an insurgent network.
“Evidence collected in the case points to corruption involving US funds and actively undermining the Afghan government’s counterinsurgency policy,” the message said.
Karzai appears in the messages as mercurial and changeable. In a February meeting with a US embassy official, Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban’s former ambassador to Pakistan, said Karzai is deceiving all sides. “When he sits with me, he tells me he wants the foreign troops to leave, then he tells you he wants them to stay forever, and he tells yet a third story to Islamic leaders of other countries,” Zaeef said.
Much of the graft is facilitated by Afghanistan’s largest hawala money-transfer system, New Ansari, “which facilitates bribes and other wide-scale illicit cash transfers for corrupt Afghan officials and…narcotraffickers, insurgents, and criminals through an array of front companies in Afghanistan and the UAE,” according to a message sent on October 18, last year, signed by US ambassador Karl Eikenberry.
Another message said the UAE had stopped for mer Afghan vice president Ahmad Zia Masood entering the country with $52 million. He was allowed to keep most of the money “without revealing the money’s origin or destination”.
“Many other notable private individuals and public officials maintain assets outside Afghanistan, suggesting they are extracting as much wealth as possible.”
The message said Afghan Central Bank governor Abdul Qadir Fitrat, however, noted that about $600m had left Afghanistan’s banking system, although not necessarily the country, before the elections because of uncertainty over the outcome of the ballot.
Afghan finance minister Omar Zakhilwal said last year that about $4.2 billion in cash had been transferred through the airport during the past three-and-a-half years. – Sapa-AP
NAMED: Hamid Karzai