Karzai demands probe of US-backed anti-corruption task force

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Maimana (Afghanistan), Aug.5 (ANI): Afghan President Hamid Karzai has demanded an investigation into a U.S.-backed anti-corruption task force, following the arrest of several senior Afghan officials on graft charges.

The new probe centers on the Major Crimes Task Force, an investigative unit launched last year in which U.S. and British law enforcement officers oversee the work of Afghan police and intelligence officials.

The unit played a key role in the arrest last week of Mohammad Zia Saleh, an official in the office of the national security adviser, the Washington Post reports.

A U.S. law enforcement official said the arrest was based on wiretaps and other evidence that Saleh had been bribed to help block a corruption probe of New Ansari, a Kabul-based financial firm suspected of helping politically connected Afghans transfer millions of dollars out of the country.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, has made the fight against corruption a top priority.

While Karzai has publicly pledged to combat the widespread theft and bribery in his administration, there has been little significant reform, and political pressure has hampered corruption investigations in the past.

U.S. officials have accused Karzai's government of routinely interfering in corruption probes and protecting politically connected Afghans from prosecution.

The most high profile case involved Afghanistan's former Islamic affairs minister, who was allowed to flee the country even while he was under investigation for allegedly taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes.

Karzai aides have denied the allegations and accused U.S. officials of exploiting the issue for political purposes and exerting improper influence in corruption probes. (ANI)

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