Top aides in President Hamid Karzai's government have repeatedly derailed investigations of politically connected Afghans, The Washington Post
reports. U.S. officials said Afghan investigators have been instructed to cross names off case files, keep senior officials from being arrested, and ignore evidence against executives of a major financial firm suspected of helping the country's powerful elite move millions of dollars overseas.
U.S. officials have provided Afghanistan with wiretapping technology and other resources to crack down on the fraud and corruption that continues to delegitimize the Karzai government.
Afghanistan is widely regarded as the most corrupt country in the world, where as much as $1 billion in U.S. government aid disappears unaccounted for every year. Halting the corruption is a key component of the American strategy in Afghanistan, as negative perceptions of Karzai's government disillusions American voters and helps the Taliban motivate Afghans to oppose Kabul.
A spokesman for Karzai said that under no circumstances had the president himself interfered with an investigation.
Afghanistan's attorney general, Mohammed Ishaq Aloko, was viewed as a U.S. ally, but continually appears to be under pressure from the Karzai regime. A few of his investigations have ended in convictions, but during meetings with U.S. officials, he has been apologetic about his lack of progress. "I'm doing this because that is what the president tells me I have to do," he said at one meeting. Aloko's deputy said it was a lack of resources, rather than outside pressure, that had prevented their office from being more effective.
The evidence against Karzai, however, is overwhelming and publicly documented. The government had issued a travel ban to prevent Mohammad Siddiq Chakari, a corrupt former minister, from leaving the country. But Chakari mysteriously obtained a letter from the attorney general allowing him to escape to London. U.S. agencies partnering with Afghan investigators to form elite corruption squads have built cases against three Karzai-appointed regional governors, only to find themselves blocked from proceeding by the government.
Aloko recently created a "review" process by which his office reviewed cases put together by the joint U.S.-Afghan investigation teams. Most of the time, the review amounted to scrubbing the names of the politically connected from the case files.