Kabul: US Attorney General Eric Holder was
on Wednesday in Afghanistan to discuss efforts to battle corruption
and enforce the rule of law, after billions of dollars in US
aid was blocked because of graft concerns.
"Fighting corruption and supporting the rule of law in
Afghanistan are top priorities for this administration,"
Holder said in a statement issued by the US Department of
Justice announcing his arrival in Kabul.
"We will continue to assist the Afghan government in
creating and sustaining the effective criminal justice system
to which the Afghan people are entitled."
His visit, which the Department of Justice says will
include meetings with Afghan and US officials, comes amid
increased tension over the Afghan administration`s efforts to
tackle widespread corruption.
A US newspaper report this week said billions of dollars
in international aid money is regularly shipped out of Kabul
on scheduled commercial flights, packed into suitcases and
some of it even registered with customs.
US Representative Nita Lowey, who sits on the powerful
committee in charge of the budget, on Monday blocked aid to
Afghanistan and said she would hold hearings into the
allegations about the flight of cash.
An aide to Lowey said that President Barack Obama`s
administration requested USD 3.9 billion in aid for
Afghanistan in the 2011 fiscal year, which starts in October.
Afghanistan`s attorney general yesterday accused US
ambassador Karl Eikenberry of threatening to have him removed
from his job if he did not take action against an Afghan
banker allegedly involved in fraud.
Responding to the growing concerns about a perceived lack
of action by Afghan authorities against graft, Afghanistan`s
finance minister said today that much of the problem had roots
in US and NATO military contracts.
Mohammad Omar Zakhailwal told reporters the Kabul
administration was ready to account for all funds it had
received from foreign donors.
He blamed Afghanistan`s Western backers for contributing
to corruption, mostly by handing out contracts beyond the
Billions of dollars from military contracts were being
flown out of the poverty-stricken nation, he said.
"In the media, particularly by this congresswoman, this
has been shown as an indication of widespread corruption in
the government," he said.
"This is not us. This is the contractors."
Zakhailwal called for an international inquiry into how
the Afghan government has spent donor funds -- as well as huge
sums spent by international donors.