Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism & The Sydney Morning Herald – 2010-12-05 00:43:24
WikiLeaks: Experts Explain America’s Role In Afghanistan Corruption
Braden Holly / USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
(December 03, 2010) — The diplomatic cables recently revealed by WikiLeaks have drawn attention for highlighting out-of-control corruption in Afghanistan and a general lack of confidence in the leadership of President Hamid Karzai.
In an article published Thursday on the New York Times website it was noted that the American Embassy stated that there appeared to be only one minister in Afghanistan who was not facing allegations of bribery.
The article highlights the difficulty American officials face while trying to find honest people to work with in the embattled country. However, some experts say that America’s contributions to the corrupt atmosphere in Afghanistan should not be ignored.
“We know that Ahmed Wali Karzai, President Hamid Karzai’s half-brother and the man who effectively controls Kandahar province, is getting paid by the CIA and that thousands of other officials are being paid off. That, in my mind, is corruption,” said Pratap Chatterjee, an author and columnist for the Guardian. “A lot of the biggest money in Afghanistan is US military and State Department contracts.”
According to the New York Times, many American officials believe Ahmed Wali Karzai benefits from narcotics trafficking taking place in Afghanistan, though he denies the charges. Many Americans may be finding it difficult to know whom to trust. According to polling by USA Today/Gallup the percentage of Americans who feel it was a mistake to send troops to Afghanistan has been steadily increasing from 9 percent in Nov. 2001 to 39 percent in Nov. 2010.
Information of the sort released by WikiLeaks may prove to be detrimental to President Obama’s ability to maintain support amongst the American people for the war in Afghanistan.
However, despite rising disapproval of the war, most Americans feel that what WikiLeaks did was wrong. According to a Rasmussen Poll, 67 percent of likely voters feel that the release of this kind of information hurts national security, while only 19 percent felt that it was performing a public service. Some experts, however, disagree.
“Greater information sharing is going to enhance security, not hurt it, though I am not an advocate of releasing information about ongoing investigations.” said Colleen Rowley, who served 24 years in the FBI and recently co-wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times. “[And] the inherent problem is that US officials are looking for allies in Afghanistan who will support their agenda and won’t dissent, so they are looking for the people who could be the most corruptible.”
Nor is corruption amongst US officials new or uncommon, reminded Rowley. In an investigation during the 1970’s code-named ABSCAM, FBI agents dressed as a sheikh and his staff and offered money to public officials for political favors. The investigation resulted in the arrest and conviction of a senator and six congressmen as well as other public officials.
(c) 2008-2010 USC Annenberg. All rights reserved.
US Takes Cut of Donations by Allies to Afghanistanâ€¨
Ian Traynor â€¨/ The Sydney Morning Herald
SYDNEY, Australiaâ€¨ (December 3, 2010) — The US military has been charging its allies a 15 percent handling fee on hundreds of millions of dollars raised internationally to build up the Afghan army, according to US diplomatic cables.
Details of the fee are just one of a series of embarrassing revelations regarding Afghanistan that have come to light from documents released by the website WikiLeaks in the past few days.
It has also been disclosed that Afghan officials despaired at the performance of British troops in the south of the country, that scores of nations have lost faith in the leadership of the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, and that only one member of his cabinet is not suspected of corruption.
The handling fee and concerns about a failure to fund projects with the contributions caused deep resentment in the German government, which threatened to cancel its contributions.
A cable to Washington from the US mission to NATO sought instructions on how to respond to the protests from the German ambassador to the military alliance, Ulrich Brandenburg. “He said that German parliamentarians were beginning to ask questions about how this money has been handled, adding that this could make it difficult for Berlin to provide additional contributions in the future,” the cable said.
Germany had given â‚¬$50 million to the fund that was set up to provide equipment for the Afghan army and finance infrastructure projects. The US ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, told Washington the German complaint raised “serious political concerns.”
In other cables the British war effort in the Helmand province received scathing criticism, based on the army’s failure to secure the town of Sangin. The governor of Helmand, Gulab Mangal, told a US team led by the Vice-President, Joe Biden, in January 2009 that US forces were urgently needed because British security in Sangin did not even extend to its main bazaar. “I do not have anything against [the British] but they must leave their bases and engage with the people,” Mr Mangal said, according to a cable.
In another cable in January 2009, Mr Mangal was reported to have been scathing towards British officials. “Stop calling it the Sangin district and start calling it the Sangin base — all you have done”ere is built a military camp next to the city,” he said.
The cables also reveal deep disappointment with Mr Karzai. Oman’s Foreign Minister said he was “losing confidence” in the President, a British diplomat said Britain felt “deep frustration” with him, and an Australian official complained that he “ignores reality.” A diplomat from the United Arab Emirates said Afghanistan would be better off without Mr Karzai, and NATO’s secretary-general speculated he had a split personality.
The cables reveal many corruption allegations. In one incident in October 2009 the then vice-president, Ahmad Zia Massoud, was questioned in Dubai when he flew into the emirate with $US52 million in cash, one diplomatic report states.
Mr Massoud was detained by officials from the US and the United Arab Emirates trying to stop money laundering. But he was let go without explaining where the money came from.
Another memo written by the US diplomat in Kabul noted how many officials owned lavish properties overseas, suggesting “these individuals are extracting as much wealth as possible while conditions permit.”
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.