June 19, 2019

Ex-Official Levels New Corruption Accusations at Afghan Government

Ex-Official Levels New Corruption Accusations at Afghan Government


KABUL, Afghanistan — A former Afghan official has accused President Ashraf Ghani’s administration of engaging in widespread corruption, including the exchange of sexual favors for government posts, adding to a string of recent setbacks for the government.

The accusations, leveled by Gen. Habibullah Ahmadzai, a former senior adviser to the president, during a TV interview last week, come as Taliban insurgents ramp up attacks across the country and as the United States tries to negotiate a peace deal with the militant group.

The corruption claims exploded on social media after they were backed up on Saturday night by Mariam Wardak, a former consultant to Mr. Ghani’s former national security adviser. During an interview with an Indian news channel, World Is One News, Ms. Wardak echoed General Ahmadzai’s accusations, saying, “This issues he brought up and highlighted reflect reality.”

Previous governments in the country, long torn by war, have also been accused of corruption. For decades, tens of millions of dollars — often as cash packed into suitcases, backpacks and plastic shopping bags — flowed from the C.I.A. to the office of President Hamid Karzai, according to current and former advisers to the Afghan leader.

The culture of corruption has also spread to sports. Five officials with Afghanistan’s soccer federation, including its leader, were suspended last year after allegations surfaced that some officials had sexually abused female players.

Haroon Chakhansuri, a spokesman for the presidential palace, called General Ahmadzai’s accusations “false and baseless.”

“This issue will be seriously investigated,” he said. “The results will be shared with the people of Afghanistan.”

Nargis Nehan, the acting minister of mines and petroleum, said in a post on Twitter that Mr. Ghani’s government had long pushed for women’s rights. “I can say with confidence that these allegations are baseless,” she said.

Mr. Ghani himself has not addressed the corruption allegations. It was not immediately clear who exactly had to exchange sexual favors for government jobs.

General Ahmadzai made the accusations on Thursday in an interview with Khurshid TV, saying that corruption in the presidential palace was one of the main reasons he had left his post. The interview quickly spread on social media. General Ahmadzai worked for Mr. Ghani for more than three years; he ran for Parliament in 2018, but was not elected.

“People were working systematically for promoting adultery in the palace, and everyone is aware of it,” Mr. Ahmadzai said in the interview.

Mr. Chakhansuri, the presidential palace spokesman, blamed General Ahmadzai’s failed parliamentary run for his comments. He added that General Ahmadzai had recently tried to get his old job back but was not rehired.

Since taking office in 2014, Mr. Ghani has tried to hire more young, Western-educated people for his staff. His term officially ended last week, but a Supreme Court ruling has allowed him to stay in office until the September presidential elections, which were delayed from July.

The divisive move has angered his rivals and many of his constituents. At the same time, the newly elected Parliament remains in a nonfunctioning deadlock just days into its term over the vote for a new speaker.

Mr. Ghani is running for his second term with support from the country’s first vice president, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, who is accused of torturing and sexually assaulting a rival in 2016. Mr. Ghani’s governing partner, Abdullah Abdullah, is running against him.





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