Afghanistan & Corruption: Shockingly Bad

August 23rd, 2010

Photo by Remy Steinegger, World Economic Forum

The New York Times reports today that Hamid Karzai, the current president of Afghanistan, admitted to helping his aide escape corruption charges.  From the Times:

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan acknowledged Sunday for the first time that he had personally intervened to free a top political aide who had been detained on graft charges by two American-backed Afghan anticorruption units.

The aide, Mohammed Zia Saleh, head of administration for Afghanistan’s National Security Council, was arrested in late July after investigators wiretapped Mr. Saleh apparently soliciting bribes from a money exchange operation.

Mr. Saleh was later released on the order of the attorney general’s office, a move many officials suspected Mr. Karzai was behind but one he did not acknowledge until Sunday.

So, not only is President Karzai’s aide potentially guilty of corruption, but President Karzai himself is now apparently committing corruption.   The most remarkable part about this, though, is how the Afghan government is reacting to the news.  The New York Times again reports in tomorrow’s paper that the Afghan government has announced its intention to place constraints on 2 western-backed anti-graft task forces. From the Times:

Afghan officials on Monday sought to shift the blame onto their Western critics in an escalating dispute over presidential meddling in the arrest of a top aide on corruption charges.

The day after President Hamid Karzai admitted that he had personally intervened to have the aide released, the president’s official spokesman, Waheed Omer, accused international contractors of responsibility for much of the country’s endemic corruption.

And Mr. Omer said new rules would limit the powers of two American-backed anti-corruption agencies, although a much-anticipated presidential decree setting out those rules was not issued on Monday as officials had earlier promised.

Are things really so bad in Afghanistan that the President can pull blatantly corrupt stunts like this?  Sort of makes you sick.

Written by Clark Gascoigne

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