WikiLeaks: Afghan Government Corruption and Money Smuggling
Ambassador in Kabul reports pervasive ‘wealth extraction’ by establishment and apparent powerlessness of US to stop it.
Rampant government corruption in Afghanistan — and the apparent powerlessness of the US do to anything about it — is laid bare by several classified diplomatic cables implicating members of the country’s elite.
In one astonishing incident in October 2009 the then vice-president, Ahmad Zia Massoud, was stopped and questioned in Dubai when he flew into the emirate with $52m in cash, according to one diplomatic report. Massoud, the younger brother of the legendary anti-Soviet resistance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, was detained by officials from the US and the United Arab Emirates trying to stop money laundering, it says.
However, the vice-president was allowed to go on his way without explaining where the money came from.
The cable, sent by the ambassador, Karl Eikenberry, detailed the colossal scale of capital flight from Afghanistan — often with the cash simply carried out on flights from Kabul to the UAE.
Read related article “Afghan vice-president ‘landed in Dubai with $52m in cash'” in the Guardian here.
Document 1: The US ambassador describes the flight od capital out of the country, including one incident in which the then vice-president flew into Dubai with $52m in cash. According to confidential reports, more than $190 million left Kabul airport for Dubai during July, August, and September 2009. Actual amounts could be much larger.
Monday, 19 October 2009, 13:58
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 003364
DEPT PASS TO S/SRAP, S/CT, EEB, and SCA/A
EO 12958 DECL: 10/19/2019
TAGS EINV,EFIN, KTFN, PGOV, AF
SUBJECT: AFGHANISTAN: CAPITAL FLIGHT AND ITS IMPACT ON FUTURE
REF: A. KABUL 2791 B. KABUL 3326
Classified By: CDDEA Ambassador E. Anthony Wayne for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1.(S) SUMMARY: Afghanistan’s is a cash-based economy, relying on historic trade linkages with neighboring and regional partners. Given Afghanistan’s strategic location, ongoing conflict, and deep involvement in illicit trade (e.g., narcotics), as well as some neighboring country currency exchange policies, vast amounts of cash come and go from the country on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis. Before the August 20 election, $600 million in banking system withdrawals were reported; however, in recent months, some $200 million has flowed back into the country. In terms of total money leaving the country, analysts are uncertain whether it is generated within Afghanistan or is moving through Afghanistan from other countries such as Pakistan (Pakistan’s strict currency controls makes smuggling through Kabul International Airport (KIA) an attractive option). Experts also do not know the ratio of licit and illicit monies leaving the country. Given Afghanistan’s general political uncertainty, lack of credible and safe investment opportunities, and unsettled election, it appears that individuals moved more money than normal out of the Afghan banking sector and country as a hedge before the elections. While some of the money appears to be returning, Mission — with support from Washington agencies and other posts in the region — will work to closely monitor the cash movements, both as a sign of public confidence in GIRoA and for possible illicit financial activities. End summary.
2. (S) While reports vary widely, records obtained from Kabul International Airport (KIA) support suspicions large amounts of physical cash transit from Kabul to Dubai on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis. According to confidential reports, more than $190 million left Kabul for Dubai through KIA during July, August, and September. Actual amounts, however, could be much larger. An official claiming first-hand knowledge recently told the Treasury Attache some $75 million transited through KIA bound for Dubai in one day during the month of July. The primary currencies identified at the airport for these three months include (in declining order): Saudi riyals, Euros, U.S. dollars, and UAE dirhams. Some Pakistani rupees and British pounds were also declared, but in much smaller amounts. Comparatively, in 2008, approximately $600 million was declared at KIA and another 100 million Euros and 80 million British pounds were declared bound for Dubai, according to available reports compiled by the Central Bank’s Financial Intelligence Unit. According to our sources, established couriers primarily use Pamir Airlines, which is owned by Kabul Bank and influential Afghans such as Mahmood Karzai and Mohammad Fahim who is President Hamid Karzai’s current vice-presidential running mate.
One Factor: Election Unease
3. (S) In an October 7 meeting, Afghan Central Bank Governor Abdul Qadeer Fitrat stressed there are no indications of significant capital flight. He pointed to a stable exchange rate and increasing assets in the formal financial system as supporting his perspective. Fitrat also mentioned that the formal banking system is well capitalized and the regulatory capital ratio of all banking institutions is above the minimum threshold (12 percent of risk-weighted assets.) Nevertheless, Fitrat did note the Central Bank was aware roughly $600 million had left Afghanistan’s banking system before the elections, due, he said, tainty as to the outcome of the election and the prospects for the new government. Fitrat could not say what percentage of this money actually left the country. (Note: Nor are there statistics showing how much was withdrawn or transferred through the more informal hawala network. End note.) As of October 7, more than $200 million has returned to the banking sector according to Fitrat. The Central Bank Governor restated this figure in an October 13 meeting between Fitrat and the Coordinating Director for Development and Economic Affairs (ref B).
4. (C) Separately, and in the same timeframe as the meeting with Fitrat, CEOs from several leading banks approached the Treasury Attache with concerns over significant cash withdrawals and wire transfers to other accounts in Dubai and Europe. In separate meetings October 12, several bankers reported deposits are growing and appeared positive about future prospects. However, the various bankers noted widespread uncertainty about the ongoing election process and overall security situation will likely continue to spook Afghanistan’s existing and potential investors, and as a result, undermine growth. One experienced banker flatly said no legitimate business person would keep significant sums of money in Afghanistan right now given the overwhelming risks of doing so.
KABUL 00003364 002 OF 002
Illicit Versus Licit
5. (C) Taking capital out of Afghanistan (physically through cash or value or by using wire transfer) is not illegal, as long as it is declared. For example, formal financial flows (e.g., wire transfers) over $10,000 are recorded by banks and submitted to the Central Bank’s Financial Intelligence Unit for analysis. All 17 licensed banks submit these reports on a monthly basis. Similarly, cash couriers transiting KIA or crossing the land border must declare carried cash if it exceeds $20,000. This regulation is better enforced at KIA than along Afghanistan’s porous borders, which further complicates full-understanding of this already complex problem-set.
6. (S) While it is impossible to know for sure at this point, our sense is the money leaving Afghanistan is likely a combination of illicit and licit proceeds. Drug traffickers, corrupt officials, and to a large extent licit business owners do not benefit from keeping millions of dollars in Afghanistan and instead are motivated (due to risk and return-on-investment) to move value into accounts and investments outside of Afghanistan. For example, the United Arab Emirates government revealed, as part of an ongoing Drug Enforcement Administration/Afghan Threat Finance Cell investigation, that it had stopped Afghan Vice-President Ahmad Zia Masood entering the country with $52 million earlier this year — a significant amount he was ultimately allowed to keep without revealing the money’s origin or destination. Moreover, Sher Khan Farnood, the Chairman of Kabul Bank, reportedly owns 39 properties on the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai and has other financial interests spread widely beyond Afghanistan. (Note: Many other notable private individuals and public officials maintain assets (primarily property) outside Afghanistan, suggesting these individuals are extracting as much wealth as possible while conditions permit. End note.)
7. (S) The sense among Mission elements is that significant volumes of cash leave Afghanistan through wire transfers, the hawala network and physically through the airport. We do not know, however, whether this money is generated within Afghanistan or brought in from other countries such as Pakistan for transfer (Pakistan strictly enforces currency controls, making smuggling through KIA an attractive option.) We also do not know the ratio of licit and illicit monies leaving the country (with the former more likely to return at some point.) Given Afghanistan’s general political uncertainty, lack of credible and safe investment opportunities, and unsettled election, we are inclined to believe several individuals moved more money than normal out of the Afghan banking sector and country as a measure of protection before the elections. We will continue to monitor and engage on the issue here. However, input from Washington agencies as well as from other missions in the region will be key in developing a clearer understanding of the composition, size, and directions of these cash flows. End comment.
Document 2: American officials report that the governor of Paktya province is at the centre of a vast corruption network which includes the provincial police chief and several senior politicians that skims of US funds intended for development.
Sunday, 27 December 2009, 11:34
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 KABUL 004150
DEPARTMENT FOR SRAP, SCA/FO, SCA/A, EUR/RPM, INR/B
STATE PASS USAID FOR ASIA/SCAA
USFOR-A FOR POLAD
EO 12958 DECL: 12/27/2019
TAGS KDEM, PGOV, PINR, KDEMAF, AF
SUBJECT: ABOVE THE LAW: CORRUPT GOVERNOR THWARTS GOVERNANCE
AND DEVELOPMENT IN PAKTYA PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
REF: KABUL 1345
Classified By: Interagency Provincial Affairs Deputy Director Hoyt Yee for Reasons 1.4(b) and (d)
1. (C) Summary: Paktya Governor Juma Khan Hamdard has the skills and charisma to be a successful politician. However, his Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HiG) connections, alleged meddling in political affairs in Balkh Province, leadership of a province-wide corruption scheme, and suspected contacts with insurgents make him detrimental to the future of Afghanistan. Through an investigation of corruption involving a local (Afghan) engineer assigned to the U.S.-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in the province, Patkya’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) Chief informs that Hamdard is the central point of a vast corruption network involving the provincial chief of police and several Afghan ministry line directors. Alleged skimming of USG development funds occurs at four stages of a project: when contractors bid on a project, at application for building permits, during construction, and at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. These allegations of corruption hamper USG relations with GIRoA officials, as well as contractors, and are being reviewed by U.S. Embassy law enforcement officials. As with other corruption cases, a major challenge to successful prosecution will be the Afghan legal system’s limited institutional capacity — the Major Crimes Task Force (MCTF) currently has four vetted prosecutors and a limited number of vetted investigators to work this and numerous other pending corruption cases from all over the country. End Summary.
GOVERNOR’S PEDIGREE AS HIG COMMANDER
2. (S) Governor Hamdard was born in 1954 and is an ethnic Pashtun from Balkh Province. He is a member of the Wardak tribe from Mazar-i-Sharif. He supposedly completed high school, but has poor reading and writing skills. During the war with the Soviets, Hamdard fought under Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s leadership and was a HiG commander. In 1994, he fought with General Dostum against the Taliban until he defected to the Taliban’s side and assisted in their victory over Dostum in 1997-98. Following the U.S.-led coalition’s invasion in 2001, Hamdard rejoined Dostum’s forces, although relations were uneasy. Following the war, he served as Number 8 Corps Commander in Balkh. Hamdard was later appointed governor of Baghlan and then Jowzjan provinces. He became governor of Paktya in December 2007. Hamdard also is one of President Karzai’s Tribal Advisors. He is affiliated with Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HiA), a political party, and is its leader in northern Afghanistan. Sensitive reporting indicates that Hamdard is still serving as a HiG commander and leads a faction of HiG fighters in the north. He often signs memos with the military title “Lieutenant General.”
3. (C) In Paktya, Hamdard has shown himself to be a very charismatic leader. Nevertheless, he spends more time outside the province than in it, leaving most governance responsibilities to Deputy Governor Abdul Rahman Mangal. Prior to the August 2009 elections, he stated on several occasions to U.S. representatives that he expected to leave Paktya for a governorship in another province or a national position following the elections. Rumors in Gardez and Jalalabad place him as a top candidate for the governor of Nangarhar. (Comment. As Nangarhar’s governor, he would have access to significant revenues generated at the Torkham Gate border crossing with Pakistan. End comment.)
THREATENING THE USE OF FORCE DURING ELECTION CAMPAIGNING
4. (C) During the pre-election period for both the August 20 elections and the subsequent planned run-off, Hamdard spent a significant amount of time outside of Paktya reportedly campaigning for President Karzai. According to Afghan and international press, his activities in Balkh Province during this period created potential for armed conflict. Abdullah Abdullah supporters claimed that Hamdard abused his government position by campaigning in the northern provinces and distributing weapons to Balkh’s Pashtun districts in order to destabilize the province. Hamdard denied these charges and armed clashes were avoided because the run-off was canceled, but his activities in Balkh demonstrated the strong support base that he continues to maintain in the north.
UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR 2007 DEATHS OF DEMONSTRATORS
KABUL 00004150 002 OF 003
5. (C) Hamdard’s own comments on his governorship in Paktya leave the impression he was “banished” to this southeastern province. In May 2007 he was forced to resign as governor of Jowzjan when thousands demonstrated against him. Forces under his command shot at demonstrators in the Uzbek town of Shibirghan, killing thirteen and injuring more than thirty, reportedly further straining relations with Dostum because many of the demonstrators were Junbesh party members and Dostum supporters. XXXXXXXXXXXX informed us that the Ministry of the Interior Administration Deputy requested his assistance in arresting Governor Hamdard and bringing him to trial for the charges. No action has been taken to carry out this request.
CENTER OF PAKTYA CORRUPTION SCHEME
6. (S) On August 23, the Paktya office of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) arrested PRT Paktya’s local national engineer Jawid Khairudeen, an Afghan citizen, for engaging in corrupt contract practices. Investigations surrounding the Jawid case reveal an extensive network of corruption throughout the province of which Hamdard and his Office Director/Chief of Staff Hashmatullah Yousifi are allegedly at the center. Paktya NDS Chief Ali Ahmad Mubaraz and eyewitnesses have accused Hamdard of soliciting bribes from contractors by having contractors arrested at job sites and held until the bribes are paid. NDS also accuses Hamdard of being an active member of Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HiG) in Balkh Province, funneling money he receives from bribes and smuggling (drugs and jewels) to HiG operations in his home province of Balkh. He allegedly has illicit contacts with insurgents in Parwan, Kunar, and Kabul provinces, as well as Pakistani intelligence (ISI) and Iranian (affiliation unknown, possibly IRGC) operatives, through his business in Dubai; he is allegedly a business partner with Gulbaddin Hekmatyr’s son in Dubai. Evidence collected in the case points to corruption involving U.S. funds and actively undermining GIRoA counter-insurgency policy.
7. (C) On October 29 XXXXXXXXXXXX came to Forward Operating Base Gardez to speak with the PRT about corruption in Governor Hamdard’s office. According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, there are four opportunities at the provincial level for illegally skimming USG funds during the life cycle of a PRT development project: the first is during the bidding/selection process. At this stage Afghan ministry line directors, who are part of the contractor selection process, receive payments to rig the scores assigned to contractors so that they will receive the highest scores and qualify for the contract. The second opportunity occurs when the contractor requests a permit to start work. The Governor’s signature is needed for the permit, so payments are made to intermediaries to secure the governor’s signature. The third occasion occurs during the quality assessment/quality control (QA/QC) process. At this stage, workers may be arrested at the construction site and held until the requesting QA/QC government official is paid a bribe; the other possibility is that the contractor must pay off the public works official conducting QA/QC on the project in order to receive a positive report. The final opportunity for graft occurs at the ribbon-cutting ceremony where significant sums of money are sometimes passed during the gift-giving part of the ceremony.
STRONG SENSE OF IMPUNITY
8. (C) Based on evidence collected, Hamdard and his accomplices allegedly act with complete impunity, blatantly placing themselves above the law. Contractors have informed the PRT that Hamdard told them he does not care about possible repercussions of his corrupt practices “because he’s under investigation already;” if contractors “complain to the PRT about him, he will have them chained and dragged to his office.” Adding salt to the wound, on October 19, the Governor called PRT leadership and the maneuver commander to his office to confront them with an e-mail Hamdard obtained in which a PRT officer asked a contractor constructing border police checkpoints questions about corruption involving Paktya’s chief of police and Hamdard. (Note: The e-mail was apparently leaked to Hamdard although he stated he received it from a GIRoA source. End Note.) During the meeting Hamdard waxed indignant and, in a memo dated soon after,
KABUL 00004150 003 OF 003
proscribed ministerial line directors from meeting further with UNAMA or PRT officials, or answering queries from them. Word has consequently spread about the corruption investigations; and interlocutors are reluctant to talk to NDS and Coalition Forces representatives — many stating that their lives are threatened.
9. (C) Allegations of corruption surrounding Governor Hamdard have come from all quarters including the private sector, public employees, and XXXXXXXXXXXX. Afghans throughout the province generally regard him as corrupt. Hamdard’s ham-fisted approach to intimidate international partners and the PRT, while not an admission of guilt, illustrates his contempt for the international donor community, GIRoA, the lawful processes for development within ministry line directories in particular, and the rule of law. His reported statement that he wants to “declare a jihad against the PRT” is illustrative of the strained relations with the PRT. Somewhat fortunately, Governor Hamdard is often away in Kabul or Balkh Province and Deputy Governor Mangal is a capable administrator and thoughtful intermediary.
10. (C) If Hamdard’s case comes to trial, his political influence and HIG ties make it possible or perhaps likely that corruption among other high-ranking government officials in the Province and beyond will be exposed. The PRT has briefed this case to the embassy via appropriate channels and will share the investigative documentation to date. U.S. law enforcement officers based in Kabul will work with the Afghan Attorney General’s office to develop this case further. As with other corruption cases, a major challenge to successful prosecution will be the Afghan legal system’s limited institutional capacity. The Major Crimes Task Force (MCTF) currently has four vetted prosecutors and a limited number of vetted investigators to work this and numerous other pending corruption cases from all over the country. 11. (U) This message was drafted at the Paktya PRT in Gardez.
Document 3: Informers say Usman Usmani, governor of Ghazni province, was responsible for corrupt practices including embezzling funds intended for election workers, appropriating land meant for refugees and diverting food aid to be sold on the black market.
Monday, 28 December 2009, 15:40
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 KABUL 004182
DEPARTMENT FOR SRAP, SCA/FO, SCA/A, EUR/RPM, INR/B
STATE PASS USAID FOR ASIA/SCAA
USFOR-A FOR POLAD
EO 12958 DECL: 12/19/2019
TAGS PGOV, PREL, AF
SUBJECT: PERVASIVE CORRUPTION UNDERMINING GHAZNI PROVINCE’S
REF: A. (A) KABUL 4088 B. (B) KABUL 2807
Classified By: Interagency Provincial Affairs Coordinator Scott Kilner for Reasons 1.4(b) and (d)
1.(C) SUMMARY: In recent weeks Ghazni Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) leadership engaged Afghan provincial and district government officials, law enforcement commanders, and civil society representatives on the extent and nature of corruption in the area. A graphic picture of criminal enterprise masquerading as public administration emerged. The consistency and scope of explicit and detailed allegations lends veracity to charges that pervasive corruption defrauds the people of meaningful government services and significantly undermines popular support for the Afghan government (GIRoA). Credible sources indicate that some of the most senior government officials in the province have chronically engaged in significant corrupt acts: embezzling public funds, stealing humanitarian assistance, and misappropriating government property, among others. The law enforcement resources needed in Ghazni and at the national level to address corruption effectively are lacking, and building that capacity will take time. In the meantime, the PRT will work with the Embassy to develop non-judicial mechanisms to bring greater civil service reform, budget and programmatic transparency, and non-judicial forms of accountability to address systemic corruption. End Summary.
GOVERNMENT AS CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE?
2. (C) In recent weeks the Ghazni Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) engaged extensively with provincial and district-level government officials, law enforcement commanders, and civil society representatives regarding the scope and nature of corruption in Ghazni Province. This report includes those examples of recent and possibly on-going corrupt practices that were raised by multiple, credible senior GIRoA officials in Ghazni Province. Most individuals the PRT spoke with were willing to speak openly about corruption in the province; many are well aware of the push by the international community to root out corruption, and may have their own motivations in highlighting corruption by others officials and minimizing attention to themselves. XXXXXXXXXXXX even provided a written summary of information contained in NDS files. These conversations paint a picture of criminal enterprise masquerading as public administration in Ghazni. Although the PRT has no capacity to confirm the allegations raised, the consistency of reports alleging corruption among senior government officials is striking. Long-standing criminal operations centered on Deh Yak District Governor Hajji Fazil, Ghazni City Mayor Hakimullah Ghazniwal, Meshrano Jirga member and Tajik community leader Mawlana Abdul Rahman, and Director of Reconstruction and Rural Development Sanai Mayel — with significant involvement by current Ghazni Governor Usman Usmani.
THE GHAZNI ARBAKAI
3. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX informed us that Governor Usmani and some district governors embezzled funds intended to pay local Afghan “Arbakai” security forces who worked during the election period securing polling sites. (Per reftel B, community based security payments were problematic in many provinces, and there was little transparency relating to the payment mechanisms.) According to these sources, approximately USD 160,000 was dispatched from the Presidential Palace to Governor Usmani to pay the Arbakai. XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that Usmani kept approximately USD 100,000, dividing the rest between the district governors of Deh Yak, Giro, Zanakhan, Gelan, Qarabah, Ab Band, Moqur, and Ghazni City. XXXXXXXXXXXX said these district governors submitted fictitious lists of Arbakai from their districts and have not distributed any of the payments. (Comment: Considering the general lack of security in these districts, with the exception of Ghazni City and parts of Qarabagh, and our assumption that little or no voting actually took place there on election day, we doubt there were any Arbakai working in these districts in the first place. End Comment.) XXXXXXXXXXXX similarly affirmed that no payments were disbursed there to pay 50 legitimate Arbakai.
KABUL 00004182 002 OF 004
MISAPPROPRIATING REFUGEE LAND
4. (C) According to both XXXXXXXXXXXX, Afghan government officials appropriated land in 2005 outside Ghazni to create a “returnee village,” where refugees and Internally Displace Persons (IDP) originally from Ghazni could return and receive a small plot of land on which to build a home. XXXXXXXXXXXX The commission divided the land up into four large sections, each consisting of many small plots. Two of the sections are on a hill and are generally undesirable as real estate, while the other two sections are flat land nearer Ghazni city and ideal for building and development. Most of the land in the flat sections was given to government officials, their relatives — some of whom were minors, and fictitious refugees. Allegedly, they were later sold for profit. The report of XXXXXXXXXXXX was sent to then-Chief Prosecutor of Ghazni, who appointed a team to investigate cases which included the director of refugees and the deputy governor. No indictment was ever issued. XXXXXXXXXXXX confirmed that these allegations are largely true.
THE WHEAT HEIST
5. (C) According toXXXXXXXXXXXX, senior government officials have long corrupted the World Food Program’s (WFP) emergency wheat shipments and Work for Food Program. According to these sources, the governor, RRD line director, and certain district governors are engaged in a scheme to divert WFP wheat and other food items to the black market to be sold. Part of the scheme involves pocketing the money from WFP to pay for transport of the wheat, thus providing the RRD director an excuse to tell the farther out, predominantly Hazara districts that he cannot deliver because he cannot pay for transportation. The Governor allegedly signs transportation contracts, but the wheat is sold and the money embezzled.
6. (C) Former Zanakhan District Governor Mohammed Hassan was arrested attempting to sell a shipment and released on order from the governor. (Note: Ref A reports on Mohammed Hassan, who was fired as District Governor of Qarabagh district after he was arrested and charged with rape in the spring 2009; he was released under questionable circumstances and secured an appointment from Governor Usmani as District governor of Zanakhan. Hassan was fired from this post on December 2. End Note.) According to sources, Deh Yak District Governor Hajji Fazil also sold wheat intended for 1,788 families in Deh Yak. Provincial Reconstruction Team officials also recently prevented RRD from diverting wheat intended for Ajiristan District to Qarabagh, where the suspicion was it would either have been sold by the district governor or police chief, or “intercepted” by the insurgency.
CHROMITE SMUGGLING TO PAKISTAN, CONTRACTOR SHAKE-DOWNS, PERSONAL ENRICHMENT
7. (C) According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, Governor Usmani has long been running a chromite smuggling operation into Pakistan from mines in Zanakhan District, as well as Wardak and Logar Provinces, sending his personal security force to escort trucks carrying chromite so they can pass Highway One checkpoints without inspection. According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, the chromite trafficking is arranged by Hajji Pacha Han, an Usmani associate from Kandahar who lives in the Governor’s official residence. XXXXXXXXXXXX said, for example, that Usmani and Hajji Fazil intervened early this year when eight trucks carrying chromite were seized by the NDS in Ghazni. According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, Usmani and Fazil secured the release of the trucks and the detained smuggler, Hajji Ibrahim. XXXXXXXXXXXX
8. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX informed Task Force representatives that Governor Usmani and RRD Director Mayel extort bribes and kickbacks from local businesses and PRT contractors. A simple “shake-down,” they allege, entails contractors who must pay a bribe to obtain official approvals; harassment for not paying includes having workers chased off job sites by armed men, sometimes by uniformed members of the ANP, is also common.
9. (C) Most credible interlocutors also assert that Governor Usmani and his accomplices in GIRoA routinely embezzle government funds and international aid money intended for public administration and humanitarian assistance. According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, the governor receives 1.4 million Afghanis per month for administrative and representational expenses, but pockets it; additionally, he allegedly received kickbacks from vendors for official purchases. XXXXXXXXXXXX admitted to the PRT that he similarly funds personal living expenses in Ghazni city.
10. (C) It is difficult to imagine sustainable gains in security, governance, and development agendas without addressing the pervasive corruption that plagues Ghazni’s public administration. The foundation of security and governance strategy in Ghazni, as in Afghanistan as a whole, requires popular acceptance of and support for GIRoA authority. Obtaining such support is very unlikely given the current situation — where sub-national government officials’ attitude toward citizens is largely predatory. PRT efforts in Ghazni have been focused on bringing GIRoA officials back to Pashtun districts where they have been absent for years. It is becoming increasingly difficult, however, to convince local Pushtuns that GIRoA presence and development programs portend stability and prosperity. The venality of provincial administration instead turns historical Pushtun skepticism of central government authority into outright hostility. Ongoing and new efforts to link the population of Ghazni to legitimate governance — short, concerted, and effective efforts to root out corruption — will pose significant challenges.
11. (C) On their own, dismayed provincial law enforcement and judicial institutions are clearly unwilling and incapable of dealing with the scope of corruption they face. Ghazni’s provincial ANP and NDS chiefs want to clean up public administration, but admit they remain powerless to tackle the most egregious corruption cases. Senior government officials act with impunity; minor officials use bribery and political influence to avoid prosecution. XXXXXXXXXXXX is blunt about the road ahead: XXXXXXXXXXXX. Mindful of the above, the impetus and resources needed to address provincial corruption in the near-term must come from outside Ghazni. XXXXXXXXXXXX The Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) of the Major Crimes Task Force, which itself is limited in terms of the number of vetted prosecutors, investigators, and judges, has yet to extend its reach into the provinces; a system of effective and direct anti-corruption mechanisms is largely lacking within the international community.
12. (C) While public corruption in Ghazni appears pervasive in scope, it lacks significant complexity; much is considered an open secret. Consequently, effective legal action would not require years of work by skilled investigators — short-term assignment of the right mix of Afghan prosecutorial staff and supporting ANP and NDS investigators, as well as USG mentors, could be sufficient to break the criminal cycle of corruption in Ghazni. However, a major challenge to successful legal action by the GIRoA will be the Afghan legal system’s limited institutional capacity. The Major Crimes Task Force (MCTF) currently has four vetted prosecutors and a limited number of vetted investigators to numerous pending corruption cases from all over the country. As a result, the PRT and Task Force will work with the Embassy to develop not only investigative and prosecution tools, but also non-judicial mechanisms to bring greater civil service reform, budget and programmatic transparency, and non-judicial forms of accountability to address systemic corruption. Trusted interlocutors in Ghazni, as is the case elsewhere in Afghanistan, provide us insight into the activities of nefarious government officials, but they do so at considerable risk to themselves, their families, and associates. Should we not quickly develop mechanisms to root out the current corrupt practices and take a firm stand in Ghazni where corruption is rampant, corrupt government officials will be emboldened and the population further alienated. 13. (U) This message was drafted by PRT Ghazni.