US more wary about corruption in Afghanistan: Kerry

A powerful US Senator says he plans to raise the issue of rampant corruption in Afghanistan with Hamid Karzai.

Washington: A powerful US Senator says he
plans to raise the issue of rampant corruption in Afghanistan
with Hamid Karzai when he visits Kabul this week to convey a
strong message to the President to be a "genuine reformer."

Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, says "the strongest message President
Karzai could send is one that elevates the credibility of his
government, and that he is to be viewed as a genuine

"Right now, he is not, and we have to be concerned
about this," Kerry was quoted as saying by Washington Post.

Kerry said the Congress was increasingly concerned
about corruption in Afghanistan and that he plans to raise the
issue directly with President Karzai during his upcoming visit
to Kabul this week.

The worries have been prompted by a series of
Congressional, military and independent reports documenting
graft and bribery at every level in Afghanistan, problems that
have grown worse as the cost of the war has escalated.

US President Barack Obama raised the corruption issue
during an hour-long videoconference with Karzai on Friday, the
Post quoted White House as saying.

Senior administration officials have been especially
concerned about Karzai`s move earlier this month to assert
control over US-backed investigations into high-level
government corruption.

Karzai accused the Major Crimes Task Force and Special
Investigative Unit of operating outside the Afghan
constitution and violating the civil rights of some of the
several dozen officials they have targeted, and said he would
issue a decree outlining new regulations for the bodies.

Two separate units operate within the Major Crimes
Task Force, one made up of Afghan national security
directorate officers mentored by the British, and the other
aided by the FBI.

The apparent cause of Karzai`s displeasure was the
arrest of a senior official, presidential national security
aide Mohammad Zia Salehi, on charges that he had solicited
bribes to help block a probe of a Kabul-based financial firm
suspected of helping politically connected Afghans transfer
money out of the country, the report said.

Kerry said that growing congressional concern about
the war is based far more on Afghan corruption and lack of
effective governance than on the US military`s failure to make
dramatic inroads in the fight against the Taliban.

"Almost every analysis underscores the fact that the
biggest single recruitment tool for the Taliban and the
biggest single factor undermining [Afghan] government support
is corruption," Kerry said.

"The governance problems are more significant than
anything else."

Congress and the American public are worried, the
senator said, "and they ought to be worried."


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