Afghan President Hamid Karzai intends to impose rules restricting international involvement in anti-corruption investigations, a move that U.S. officials fear will hobble efforts to address the endemic graft that threatens support for his administration in Afghanistan and the United States.
Karzai wants to circumscribe the role of American and other foreign law enforcement specialists in two key anti-corruption organizations that have been set up in the Interior Ministry by not allowing them to have direct involvement in investigations.
“The management will be Afghan, and the decision makers will be Afghan, and the investigators will be Afghan,” Mohammad Umer Daudzai, Karzai’s chief of staff, said in a telephone interview Wednesday. Foreign advisers, most of whom work for the U.S. Justice Department, will be limited to “training and coaching, but not decision making,” he said.
Concern about Karzai’s willingness to root out corruption has emerged as a flashpoint in the U.S.-Afghan relationship, with American officials arguing that Karzai has not done enough to demand accountability and Karzai maintaining that the problem has been fueled by the influx of billions of dollars in foreign assistance.
The planned changes have alarmed U.S. officials in Kabul and Washington and prompted efforts to try to persuade Karzai and his advisers to soften the restrictions.
“What he’s proposing would effectively neuter these two bodies,” said a U.S. official involved in Afghanistan policy.