This isn't Karzai's fault-everyone knows Afghanistan has been a mafia-esque crime to soak Americans from day 1. "The United States is spending more than $6 billion a month in the conflict."...
10/11/11, "Afghanistan Obstructs Graft Probes," AP, via Time Magazine, Goldman and Vogt
"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.(See more on Afghanistan's dirty war.)
- 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.
Abu Bakr was suspended as governor after CIA Director David Petraeus, then the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, presented Karzai with documentation showing that he was colluding with the Taliban, according to an Afghan official in Kabul with direct knowledge of the incident.
In the two years since Karzai unveiled a new anti-corruption task force, powerful government figures have been accused of corruption and even investigated, but seldom brought to court. It appears that Abu Bakr will be no exception.(See more on Afghanistan-Pakistan relations and implications for the U.S.)
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 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. 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 Abu Bakr declined to comment. The current head of the anti-corruption unit at the attorney general's office said the case was ongoing....
Several months ago, U.S. Embassy personnel in Kabul concluded 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 the drive to crack down on graft by the Afghan government
- had come to a halt more than a year ago.
Current and former U.S. officials said the American administration was trying to downplay their anti-corruption work in its Afghanistan policy because it was such a failure.
The case against Abu Bakr opened last year after allegations surface d he had received a $200,000 bribe in exchange for the contract to build a cell tower, an Afghan official said.
Abu Bakr lives in Mahmud-i-Raqi, the capital of Kapisa province, in a large house. He has three other houses in Kabul, all built, according to the original witness statements, with stone and gravel paid for by foreign donations
- intended for roads, schools and clinics.
About 20 witnesses said the governor forced local construction companies to give him truckloads of gravel and stone for his expensive homes, according to the officials. The witnesses reportedly said the governor threatened to halt their construction projects if he didn't get what he wanted.
However, when prosecutors traveled to Kapisa in late June to get more evidence, the witnesses were no longer willing to cooperate.
"They changed their story," the Afghan official said. Prosecutors also met with Abu Bakr, who denied everything.
Only one witness was still willing to testify, a man named Shah Agha who said Abu Bakr shut down his rock-crushing plant after he refused to donate 100 trucks of gravel — worth about $10,500 — for the construction of one of his houses. Agha said within an hour of giving his statement in Kabul, his phone started ringing.
"It was people, friends, asking me why I had talked against Abu Bakr," Agha told the AP. He said his testimony could only have gotten out so quickly if someone inside the attorney general's office was tipping people off.
Four months ago, the Abu Bakr case was abruptly closed, despite pleas from the prosecutor for more time to gather evidence, according to officials. In July, the top prosecutor was demoted, and sent to oversee conditions in Afghan prisons, according to an Afghan government document obtained by The Associated Press. Her pay was cut by $50 a month, or about a fourth of her monthly salary.
At least three prosecutors who have persisted in sensitive investigations — two of them involving Abu Bakr — have been removed or transferred, either to other departments or to remote provinces, according to a senior U.S. official.
Almost everyone in the Abu Bakr case would only speak anonymously, especially in Mahmud-i-Raqi, for fear of recrimination and of angering a man still considered more powerful than the current governor. One provincial official described speaking to construction companies who acknowledged paying off Abu Bakr in exchange for contracts, including one that involved U.S. funds to pave a road. The official said Abu Bakr demanded the company raise the price of its bid to include a $150,000 kickback."
9/25/11, "Government by crime syndicate," LA Times, Op-ed, Sarah Chayes,
"In Afghanistan and elsewhere, rampant corruption threatens security and the rule of law."
"Afghanistan is controlled by a structured, mafiaesque system, in which money flows upward via purchase of office, kickbacks or "sweets" in return for permission to extract resources (of which more varieties exist in impoverished Afghanistan than one might think) and protection in case of legal or international scrutiny. Those foolish enough to raise objections are punished. The result is a system that selects for criminality, excluding and marginalizing the very men and women of probity
- most needed to build a sustainable state."...
10/13/10, "Afghan firms "pay off Taliban with foreign [American] cash," Reuters
"Subcontractors are impossible to trace."...
7/25/11, "U.S. trucking funds end up in Taliban hands," Reuters
"Cash from part of a $2.16 billion U.S. transportation contract in Afghanistan has ended up in the hands of Taliban insurgents, the Pentagon said on Monday.
The disclosure is another example of the persistent difficulty the U.S. military has in keeping its massive war funding from reaching the insurgents it is fighting in the unpopular, decade-old Afghan war.,
The United States is spending more than $6 billion a month in the conflict.
Pentagon officials have repeatedly warned of the need to tighten controls on U.S. contracts."...---------------------------
9/19/10, "U.S. contractor accused of fraud still winning big Afghan projects," McClatchy, Marisa Taylor and Warren P. Stroebel
US under great "political pressure to pump billions into Afghanistan," 'subcontractors are impossible to trace.' Louis Berger Co. was a big democrat donor.
- (Above article won a 2011 Nat. Press Club award).
9/27/2009, "Insurgents play a perilous mountain game," The Age.com.au (Australia) by Paul McGeough and David Brill
"Deals in which the Taliban top up their coffers by demanding as much as 30 per cent of the value of a contract as protection money are rife. "...
The goal has always been to destroy the US economy. Many Americans in the Beltway have wanted to do the same thing, so it's been a snap.
12/28/01, "Osama: Hit U.S. Economy," NY Daily News, H. Kennedy
"In his latest video message after three months on the lam, a gaunt Osama Bin Laden urged Muslims to wage economic holy war against a "fragile" America. "It is important to concentrate on the destruction of the American economy," Bin Laden says on the 33-minute tape, broadcast in full yesterday by Al Jazeera TV in Qatar. "If their economy ends, they will become too busy to enslave oppressed people." Bin Laden bragged that the attacks caused losses of "more than a trillion dollars on the New York market and elsewhere." "This economic hemorrhaging continues until today but requires more blows.
- And the youth should try to find the joints
- of the American economy and hit the enemy in these joints.""