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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Alleged Corruption Surrounds Karzai

By Michael Isikoff, Ron Moreau, and Sami Yousafzai
Last fall President Obama made what may be his most agonizing decision yet, sending 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. But now White House officials are making little secret about how exasperated they are with the erratic behavior of the country's president, Hamid Karzai. After Karzai suggested last week that he might join the Taliban if the U.S. and other Western nations keep dictating how his government should be run, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that the president may scrap a planned meeting between the two leaders next month. One big issue lurking behind the spat: an ever more tense confrontation regarding alleged corruption within Karzai's inner circle.
With American backing, a special anti-corruption unit of the Afghan attorney general's office has been developing cases against as many as 17 senior Afghan political figures, many of them with close ties to Karzai. One, the former mining minister, is under investigation for allegedly receiving about $10 million in kickbacks from a Chinese company that was awarded a copper concession. (The minister says he's not guilty.) But the unit's first big test case involves Mohammad Siddiq Chakari, the ex-minister of the hajj and religious affairs. Karzai appointed him to the post last year as part of a deal to get support for reelection from key political figures, including Burhanuddin Rabbani, the former leader of the Northern Alliance, who also happens to be Chakari's father-in-law. Another former top Alliance official was Chakari's business partner.


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