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Afghan Govt Can’t Prosecute Corrupt Official Because He Travels Around With ‘Large Entourage Of Bodyguards’

Department of Defense/ Cpl. Adam Leyendecker

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Thomas Phippen Thomas Phippen is acting editor in chief at the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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The Afghanistan government hasn’t arrested one government official convicted of corruption because he travels with a retinue of bodyguards armed with assault rifles, according to a new report.

The rampant corruption since the start of Afghanistan reconstruction has not subsided, but the local government and U.S. interests are slowly implementing strategies to combat the flow of foreign aid dollars and in-country resources to corrupt officials, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) writes in a report released Wednesday.

Afghanistan reconstruction has cost the U.S. $126 billion since 2002, not including the cost of actually fighting the war. The list of wasteful U.S.-funded Afghanistan projects are bad enough  — including power lines not connected to power stations, camouflage that doesn’t work, subsidized opium farming — but of the major obstacles to stability of the country’s government is rampant corruption.

Even when corruption is discovered and the person convicted in a court of law, authorities have difficulty prosecuting the powerful individuals. U.S. and Afghanistan officials told SIGAR that “police and detectives cannot arrest certain individuals because they are simply outgunned.”

Most of the police weapons and vehicles have “disproportionately been allocated” to protect the prosecutors and judges within the legal system, and not, apparently, to enforce sentences on convicted criminals.

In one case, a former official in the Afghanistan Ministry of the Interior who was “tried and found guilty of corruption by the Anti-Corruption Justice Center in absentia, has defied arrest because he travels around Kabul [Afghanistan’s capital city] with a large entourage of bodyguards armed with assault rifles.”

Overall, the justice center and the Major Crimes Task Force, the two main elements to fighting corruption, “lack the capacity, resources, or security they need to perform their functions,” SIGAR concluded.

Officers with the Major Crimes Task Force — often armed only with pistols — often face political pressure to avoid making arrests. “[I]t is common for police and MCTF detectives to receive calls from members of Parliament, former ministers, and other political actors warning against making arrests of politically powerful individuals,” SIGAR said. If the police make the arrests anyway, “they face personal or professional consequences.” (RELATED: Widows Of Afghan Soldiers Forced To Perform ‘Sexual Favors’ To Receive Pension Benefits)

In one example, task force was going to arrest money changers (hawaladars) suspected of laundering hundreds of millions of dollars out of Afghanistan. When the suspects got wind of the pending arrests, they “called the Presidential Palace,” and the palace then jailed the Major Crimes Task Force officers “for several days for supposedly abusing their power.” The task force stopped pursuing the investigation after their imprisonment.

A major factor that fuels corruption in Afghanistan is the procurement process. Much of the country’s budget comes from U.S. aid, but Afghanistan does not have the same level of oversight. SIGAR chief John Sopko highlighted one example of the corrupt practices in a speech at the European Union Anti-Corruption Conference in Kabul April 24.

A cabal of companies bidding on a multi-million Ministry of Defense fuel contract colluded with government officials to “inflate their bids and to prevent the submission of lower bids,” Sopko said. Sopko brought the evidence of the corruption to President Ashraf Ghani at one of the first meetings with the new president, who was elected in 2014. Sopko was pleased that the new president fired all involved in the schemeand cancelled the contract, saving Afghan and U.S. taxpayers more than $200.

“I will note, however, that we continue to be troubled that no one has yet been prosecuted, though we hope that will change soon,” Sopko added.

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