WikiLeaks: Afghanistan steeped in monumental corruption

By Arun Kumar, IANS
Friday, December 3, 2010

WASHINGTON - A new set of leaked US diplomatic cables portray Afghan President Hamid Karzai as paranoid, with an “inability to grasp the most rudimentary principles of state-building” and paint a picture of Afghanistan steeped in corruption.

The cables sent from the US embassy in Kabul over the last two years showed corruption’s “pervasive nature, its overwhelming scale, and the dispiriting challenge it poses to American officials.” the New York Times reported Thursday citing cables leaked by WikiLeaks.

One cable from the US mission in Kabul earlier this year noted that the agriculture minister, Asif Rahimi, “appears to be the only minister that was confirmed about whom no allegations of bribery exist.”

At the same time, Dr. Sayed Fatimie, the minister of health, told American diplomats that members of parliament wanted cash to confirm his appointment. “Fatimie said MPs had offered their own votes and the votes of others they could purportedly deliver for $1,000 apiece,” a cable said.

Another Afghan minister warned US diplomats that Karzai was “under great pressure from political leaders to accept a number of ministerial candidates whose technical skills are lacking.”

The minister “argued that these political leaders are only thinking of dividing up the spoils rather than the quality of government needed to tackle Afghanistan’s problems.”

The cables also demonstrate an often difficult relationship between NATO allies and Karzai, the Times said. At a meeting described in a cable in October 2008, a British official said the United Kingdom “continues to feel ‘deep frustration’ with Karzai. But he added: “I remind people that we - the international community - selected him.”

Some months later, US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry drew up a candid psychological profile of Karzai. In a cable dated July 7, 2009, Eikenberry wrote that one portrait of Karzai that emerged was “of a paranoid and weak individual unfamiliar with the basics of nation-building and overly self-conscious that his time in the spotlight of glowing reviews from the international community has passed.”

The cables from Kabul also underline the difficulty in confronting money-laundering of profits from the heroin trade and other criminal enterprises, the Times said.

One from October 2009 claimed that one hawala (informal cash) network “is facilitating bribes and other wide-scale illicit cash transfers for corrupt Afghan officials and is providing illicit financial services for narco-traffickers, insurgents, and criminals through an array of front companies in Afghanistan and the UAE.”

But an investigation of the hawala network proved difficult. One cable reported that Afghanistan’s interior minister asked that the US take a low profile on the case to avoid the perception that investigations were being carried out “at the behest of the United States.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at

Filed under: Diplomacy

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