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Afghan prosecutors faulted for lax corruption efforts

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In a country rife with corruption, Afghanistan's top prosecutors aren't doing enough to combat the top-level officials committing the crimes, said the chief U.S. watchdog in that nation.

"The [Afghan] Attorney General's Office lacks the political will to prosecute high-level, corrupt officials," said a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR.

Morale at the anti-corruption unit in the Afghan government is low, SIGAR said, and an "atmosphere of paranoia prevails."

That's led to a lot of foot-dragging by officials suppose to be pursuing corrupt public officials. In the most prominent case, Afghan prosecutors have been slow to convict officials at Kabul Bank, the country's largest private bank, for spending funds on their own lavish lifestyles and giving money to relatives. The bank almost collapsed in 2010 amid scandal.

The case has continued to "epitomize the [attorney general's office] lack of zeal," SIGAR said.

In another high-profile case, Afghan National Army Surgeon General Zia Yaftali has been accused of purchasing an unneeded mammogram machine from a company in which his brother had a financial stake.

SIGAR said Afghan prosecutors say they will file charges "soon," but have not done so for nearly eight months.

"The ability of the Afghan government to deliver services to its citizens without the illicit diversion of resources is crucial to the country's development and the government's standing as a legitimate, sovereign authority," said a letter from SIGAR, which is headed by IG John Sopko.

Afghanistan ranked at the bottom of the global list alongside Somalia and North Korea for the title of most corrupt government in 2012, according to Transparency International, an organization that tracks corruption.

Transparency International grades each nation on a 100-point scale. Afghanistan scored an 8.

Since 2002, the U.S. has pumped almost $100 billion into rebuilding the war-torn nation and fighting extremist factions like the Taliban and al Qaeda. But the rampant corruption raises the specter that taxpayer money is instead going to line Afghan officials' pockets.

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