All In The Karzai Family

What are we fighting for again?

Corruption fighting, Afghanistan style

Just how corrupt is the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan? It should be clear by now that President Hamid Karzai doesn’t want us to know. He’d prefer that we just keep sending our troops and our dollars, and not ask too many questions.

Karzai’s government announced this week that American and allied advisers, dispatched to Kabul to help investigate massive and endemic graft, will no longer be allowed to do any actual investigating. Karzai’s chief of staff told The Post that the government is still determined to eliminate corruption, but intends to do so “within an Afghan framework.”

And what a framework it is. Karzai is evidently upset that foreign advisers helped build a case against one of his high-ranking aides, Mohammad Zia Salehi, who is charged with soliciting a bribe — $10,000 plus a new car — from a money-exchange firm. In return, according to the charges, Salehi was supposed to derail an investigation into allegations that the company, called New Ansari, had illegally shipped $3 billion in cash out of the country. Most of the funds ended up in Dubai, where many of the wealthy Afghan elite have settled.

Salehi was arrested, but Karzai intervened to have him released from jail just seven hours later. Karzai has said that the use of wiretaps to build the case against Salehi was a violation of “human rights principles.” I wonder what other standard investigative techniques don’t fit within the “Afghan framework.”

A serious, sustained probe of high-level Afghan corruption might hit even closer to home for Karzai and his family. His brother, Mahmoud Karzai, is one of the major shareholders in Kabul Bank, the nation’s largest financial institution, which almost collapsed this week amid allegations that it was essentially being looted by politically connected insiders. Mahmoud Karzai lives in what the Financial Times describes as a “beachside villa” in Dubai.

President Karzai’s half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is the most powerful political figure in the Kandahar region — and also, according to persistent allegations, a major player in Afghanistan’s illegal drug trade. He denies any involvement in the opium business, and Hamid Karzai vouches for him, so that’s that. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

See also:
U.S. effort to help Afghanistan fight corruption has complicated ties
Kabul Bank’s Dubai connection
The Karzai empire, villas in Dubai and fears over Afghan aid
Corruption Allegations Test Afghan Banking System
Karzai Family Ties Shielded Afghan Bank
Karzai’s brother made $1m from Dubai deal financed by Kabul Bank

Gee, we’re doing Karzai’s fighting for him while his whole family is picking our pockets.

/of course, a Taliban government would be worse but, apparently, not by much

Tammany Hall Reincarnated

Boss Tweed would be proud.

Tainted Afghan Vote Tally Gives Karzai Majority

Afghanistan’s election commission announced a tally giving President Hamid Karzai a majority of votes in the Aug. 20 presidential election — potentially enough to avoid a runoff and claim victory — after the commission decided to include thousands of suspected fraudulent ballots that helped to put him over the top.

The commission’s decision came in response to intense lobbying by aides to Mr. Karzai’s campaign, two election commission officials said. It also came in defiance of a direct plea from the U.S. to exclude fraudulent votes. Election commission members who wanted to ensure a Karzai victory played a pivotal role in seeing that suspect votes were counted, one commission official said.

Hours before the announcement, United Nations-sponsored election investigators ordered a recount of ballots from suspect polling places because of “clear and convincing evidence of fraud.” Other candidates angrily rejected the tally, which gave Mr. Karzai 54.1% of the votes with nearly 92% of the ballots counted. His nearest challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, has 28.3%, according to the commission.

“We have been saying from the beginning that the [commission] has been proceeding in an illegal manner and we won’t accept” the results, said Dr. Abdullah’s campaign spokesman, Fazel Sangcharaki. The candidate has discouraged his supporters from violent protests, but widespread disaffection in Dr. Abdullah’s northern strongholds risks fracturing parts of Afghanistan that back the central government.

One election commission official, deputy chief electoral officer Zakari Barakzai, told of unspecified pressure on the commission to include suspect votes. “The results we have so far are only half-clean,” he said.

President Hamid Karzai takes 100% of votes in opposition stronghold

In the southern Afghan district of Shorabak, the tribesmen gathered shortly before last month’s presidential election to discuss which candidate they would back. After a debate they chose to endorse Abdullah Abdullah, President Hamid Karzai’s leading opponent.

The tribal leaders prepared to deliver a landslide for Abdullah – but it never happened. They claim Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s brother and leader of the Kandahar provincial council, detained the local governor and closed all the district’s 46 polling sites on election day.

The ballot boxes were taken back to the district headquarters where, tribal leaders allege, they were stuffed with ballots by local policemen. A total of 23,900 ballots were finally sent off to Kabul, the capital – every one of them a vote for Karzai.

The alleged fraud, which Ahmed Wali Karzai denies, was the most blatant example among hundreds of incidents that have threatened to make a mockery of the election.

The sheer scale and audacity of the cheating, which includes supposedly “state-sponsored” ballot-stuffing, vote burning, intimidation and the closure of polling stations in antigovernment areas, has overwhelmed the country’s fledgling Electoral Complaints Commission.

Its staff are battling with more than 2,600 reports of vote-rigging, including at least 650 deemed serious enough “materially” to influence the result.

“This is a blatant violation of the procedure and I think it is stealing in daylight,” Abdullah said yesterday.

His aides say privately that if Karzai wins the 50.1% of votes needed for victory in the first round, they won’t accept the result. Abdullah said he intended to use all legal means to challenge any Karzai victory; his supporters talked menacingly of “Iran-style protests with Kalashnikovs”.

See also:
No Western fudge can fix the mounting Afghanistan election crisis
Evidence of fraud as Hamid Karzai passes threshold in Afghan poll
Fraud charges undermine trust in Afghan election
US says Afghan election results could take months
Afghanistan election results coult take months, warns US
U.S. Calls For ‘Rigorous Vetting’ of Afghan Election Fraud Allegations
U.S. in Delicate Spot as Fraud Claims Mount in Afghan Vote

So, we’re fighting and dying in Afghanistan, not only to track down, kill or capture, and disrupt the networks of al Qaeda and their protecters, the Taliban, but also to provide some semblance of a stable democratic national government that can eventually fend for itself and keep Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists hell bent on attacking Western interests worldwide.

And this is the thanks we get, widespread election fraud on behalf of Hamid Karzai, the candidate we’ve backed since we first came to Afghanistan? How awkward and embarrassing is this situation for the United States?

/and, more importantly, what’s Obama going to do about it?