- Gentlemen, start your drones: Judge’s ruling opens door for commercial use
- Soldier who hid, bragged about not saluting flag to be punished — in secret
- ‘Maverick’ of the seas: ‘Top Gun’ school for U.S. ship officers to launch
- Putin declares Sochi Paralympics open amid Ukrainian protest
- ‘In Jesus name, we pray’ sparks ire at Ohio council meeting
- Navy’s first laser weapon ready for prime time; drone killer to deploy this summer
- Billionaire backer: Rick Santorum ‘needs to be heard’ in 2016
- Obamacare fallout: 49 percent pessimistic; 45 percent ‘scared’
- DHS accused of holding U.S. citizen at airport, using emails to pry into her sex life
- Seattle socialist: Minimum-wage discussion skewed by ‘right-wing’ GAO analysis
Afghanistan obstructs graft probes
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A major investigation into an influential Afghan governor accused of taking bribes has been shut down and its top prosecutor transferred to a unit that doesn’t handle corruption cases, Afghan and U.S. officials said.
The closing of the investigation into the former governor of Kapisa province, Ghulam Qawis Abu Bakr, comes on the heels of a grim, unpublicized assessment by U.S. officials that no substantive corruption prosecutions were taking place in Afghanistan despite President Hamid Karzai’s pledge to root out graft.
The Abu Bakr investigation raises troubling questions yet again about how much U.S. taxpayer money is lining the pockets of powerful Afghan officials, and whether the U.S. is doing all it can to persuade Mr. Karzai to crack down on corruption. It also suggests that the lax prosecution of corruption has pervaded all levels of government.
U.S. officials had hoped the case would be the first conviction of a relatively significant person in Afghan government. While most of Abu Bakr’s influence is in Kapisa province, he is also connected to the Hizb-e-Islami political party, which the government has been trying to court in hopes of getting the group to cut its ties with militants.
Mr. Abu Bakr was suspended as governor after CIA Director David H. Petraeus, then the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, presented Mr. Karzai with documentation showing that Mr. Abu Bakr was colluding with the Taliban, according to an Afghan official in Kabul with direct knowledge of the incident.
In the two years since Mr. Karzai announced a new anti-corruption task force, powerful government figures have been accused of corruption and even investigated, but seldom brought to court. It appears Mr. Abu Bakr will be no exception.
Most of the approximately 2,000 cases investigated by the anti-corruption unit since its birth in 2009 have stalled, said a NATO official familiar with the unit, who spoke anonymously to discuss sensitive matters. The 28 convictions so far have all been of minor players. The attorney general’s office has been infiltrated by power brokers, ranging from lawmakers to warlords, who are systematically blocking cases, the NATO official said.
In general, little has come of Mr. Karzai’s promises after a fraud-marred 2009 election that he would make rooting out graft a priority. In fact, a corruption scandal in the interim involving the country’s largest private bank has incriminated a number of Karzai allies, including relatives.
The first evidence that corruption was not being taken seriously in the attorney general’s office came in the summer of 2010, when a Karzai aide was arrested on charges of accepting a car in exchange for his help in thwarting a corruption case. Mr. Karzai ordered the release of the aide, Mohammad Zia Salehi.
Because of the onslaught of negative publicity, Attorney General Mohammed Ishaq Aloko ordered his prosecutors not to discuss details of their cases with the U.S. officials advising them, saying that if they did, they would be considered U.S. spies, said an Afghan official who worked in the anti-corruption unit.
Both the attorney general and Mr. Abu Bakr declined to comment. The current head of the anti-corruption unit at the attorney general’s office said the case was ongoing.
“The case against Gov. Ghulam Qawis Abu Bakr has not closed. Our unit is still working on that case. They are trying to collect evidence and complete the case and get it ready to send it to the courts,” said Gen. Abu Baker Rafiyee. “When the case will go to court is not clear. It will be whenever it is ready for the court.”
Several months ago, U.S. Embassy personnel in Kabul concluded that no substantive corruption prosecutions were taking place in Afghanistan, according to a former senior U.S. familiar with the briefing, which occurred before the Abu Bakr case was halted. The former official was told during the briefing that the drive to crack down on graft by the Afghan government had come to a halt more than a year before.
Current and former U.S. officials said the Obama administration was trying to downplay its anti-corruption work in its Afghanistan policy because it was such a failure.
The case against Mr. Abu Bakr opened last year after allegations surfaced he had received a $200,000 bribe in exchange for the contract to build a cell tower, an Afghan official said.
TWT Video Picks
Taxpayers must pay the freight for over-budget train projects
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Rand Paul wins 2014 CPAC straw poll, Ted Cruz finishes a distant second
- Bill Clinton cashes in on struggling nonprofit hospital
- Paul takes veiled shot at Cruz, says GOP must focus on growth
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- VIDEO: Emily Miller on Fox Business "The Independents" special "The Gun Show"
- Obama engages in Ukraine diplomacy from Fla. resort as Russia digs in
- Stolen European passports on Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777
- Gates: Obama strategy won't stop Putin
- CPAC 2014 straw poll results
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again