From Karzai down, Afghanistan is ‘rife with cor­rup­tion’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

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

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