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WikiLeaks: Experts Explain America's Role In Afghanistan Corruption

Braden Holly |
December 2, 2010 | 5:35 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

The diplomatic cables recently revealed by WikiLeaks have drawn attention for highlighting out of control corruption in Afghanistan and a general lack of confidence in the leadership of President Hamid Karzai.

In an article published Thursday on the New York Times website it was noted that the American Embassy stated that there appeared to be only one minister in Afghanistan who was not facing allegations of bribery.  The article highlights the difficulty American officials face while trying to find honest people to work with in the embattled country.  However, some experts say that America’s contributions to the corrupt atmosphere in Afghanistan should not be ignored.

“We know that Ahmed Wali Karzai, President Hamid Karzai’s half-brother and the man who effectively controls Kandahar province, is getting paid by the CIA and that thousands of other officials are being paid off.  That, in my mind, is corruption,” said Pratap Chatterjee, an author and columnist for the Guardian. “A lot of the biggest money in Afghanistan is U.S. military and State Department contracts.”

According to the New York Times, many American officials believe Ahmed Wali Karzai benefits from narcotics trafficking taking place in Afghanistan, though he denies the charges.  Many Americans may be finding it difficult to know whom to trust.   According to polling by USA Today/Gallup the percentage of Americans who feel it was a mistake to send troops to Afghanistan has been steadily increasing from 9 percent in Nov. 2001 to 39 percent in Nov. 2010. 

Information of the sort released by WikiLeaks may prove to be detrimental to President Obama’s ability to maintain support amongst the American people for the war in Afghanistan.  However, despite rising disapproval of the war, most Americans feel that what WikiLeaks did was wrong.  According to a Rasmussen Poll, 67 percent of likely voters feel that the release of this kind of information hurts national security, while only 19 percent felt that it was performing a public service.  Some experts, however, disagree.

“Greater information sharing is going to enhance security, not hurt it, though I am not an advocate of releasing information about ongoing investigations.” said Colleen Rowley, who served 24 years in the FBI and recently co-wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times.  “[And] the inherent problem is that U.S. officials are looking for allies in Afghanistan who will support their agenda and won’t dissent, so they are looking for the people who could be the most corruptible.”

Nor is corruption amongst U.S. officials new or uncommon, reminded Rowley.  In an investigation during the 1970’s code-named ABSCAM, FBI agents dressed as a sheikh and his staff and offered money to public officials for political favors.  The investigation resulted in the arrest and conviction of a senator and six congressmen as well as other public officials.



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