Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) issued its latest quarterly report to the US Congress on Tuesday and stated that the US Department of Justice (DoJ) views the situation in Afghanistan as “consistent with a largely lawless, weak, and dysfunctional government”.
In his report John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, stated that there are “many corruption cases languishing due to the lack of political will—rather than capacity—of the Afghan government.”
He said SIGAR shared the concerns of donors that the Afghan government may be going back to “business as usual” and simply “checking the box” when it comes to fighting corruption.
He singled out the Anti-Corruption Justice Center (ACJC) established by President Ashraf Ghani in May 2016 and said it had shown little ability to function as intended.
At the ACJC, Major Crimes Task Force investigators, Attorney General’s Office prosecutors, and judges work to combat serious corruption.
Sopko said that according to the DoJ, the Ministry of Interior, despite expressing willingness, has not helped the ACJC execute search and arrest warrants.
“According to DoJ, more than 100 ACJC warrants remain outstanding. DOJ believes the problem of powerful and corrupt actors ignoring warrants is so severe that it has undermined the fundamental legitimacy and authority of the ACJC.
“In addition, according to DoJ, there is significant corruption within the ACJC, with nearly 40 percent of the prosecutors assigned to it having failed polygraphs,” Sopko stated in the report.
SIGAR stated that according to DoJ, the Afghan attorney general has failed to respond to personal appeals made by several senior US government officials to prosecute stalled high-profile corruption cases to show that no one was above the law.
“Despite these appeals, DoJ says the attorney general continues to have a poor record of prosecuting powerful and influential corrupt actors.
“DoJ has also observed that the MoI has failed to execute lawful warrants issued by the prosecutors, despite being legally obliged to do so. DoJ made personal appeals to the MoI deputy on security affairs in December,” the report read.
SIGAR points out that the ACJC’s jurisdiction covers major corruption cases committed in any province involving senior officials or substantial monetary losses of a minimum of five million AFs (about $73,000).
This quarter however, only Afghan security-forces personnel were tried by the ACJC. These individuals included two sergeants (one of whom was fined about $360 while the other was acquitted), a second lieutenant (who received a three-year prison sentence), and a lieutenant general (who failed to appear for trial).
“This quarter, the ACJC primary court heard the case of the head of the Herat passport office and a sergeant assigned there who were accused of bribery worth the approximate equivalent of $70.”
SIGAR stated the Supreme Court referred this case directly to the ACJC even though neither the monetary amount nor the rank of the defendants met the standard ACJC jurisdictional thresholds.
SIGAR also raised issues in other cases referred to the ACJC and stated there was a “troubling trend at the ACJC of prosecuting low-level offenders while at the same time not pursing high-level corrupt actors.”
According to DoJ, there is significant corruption within the ACJC, the report stated.
SIGAR noted that according to DoJ, nearly 40 percent of the prosecutors assigned to the ACJC have failed polygraphs. Of the 75 tested in 2017, reports for 28 tested subjects (or 37.3 percent) indicated deception.
“Confronted with the test results, the attorney general displayed a “deep reluctance” to use polygraph information for vetting purposes, and declined to release the results,” the report stated.
Likewise, 38 percent of the MCTF agents assigned to the ACJC failed polygraphs and continued to work there. According to DoJ, this practice is a significant departure from the FBI’s vetting procedure that was in place when they mentored the MCTF, in which, passing polygraphs was mandatory.
SIGAR stated that from January to March, DoJ reports that the ACJC has experienced reduced productivity and transparency, and, citing security concerns, is increasingly providing insufficient notice of trials to the media and international donors.
Another area of concern in terms of corruption for SIGAR was that within the Afghanistan Security Forces.
SIGAR’s report stated that continuing corruption within the Afghan security forces contributes to mission failure and poses a risk to the mission in Afghanistan. The widespread, continuing corruption is attributed to the actions of Afghan government officials and long-standing, culturally accepted, and feared patronage networks, the report stated.
According to the report, the most common corrupt behaviors identified are associated with fuel, food, “ghost” or non-existent soldiers, extortion, narcotics, illicit mining, bribery, and the misuse, theft, or illegal sale of Afghan government property.
SIGAR also noted an issue with the Major Crimes Task Force (MCTF), an elite MOI unit chartered to investigate corruption by senior government officials, organized criminal networks, and high-profile kidnappings committed throughout Afghanistan.
The report stated that “while the MCTF is internally committed to its mission, Afghan government officials both within and external to the MoI continue to pressure the MCTF leadership to either close investigations or, if investigations are complete, not to make an arrest.”
According to DoJ there are reasons to be concerned with the state of the MCTF and that a study indicated a “majority” of the MCTF agents were corrupt and unlawfully interfered with cases.
“DoJ reports that 38 percent of the MCTF agents failed polygraphs and continued to work there. In addition, a top AGO official expressed to DoJ various criticisms of the MCTF including: (1) an ill-defined role, (2) criminals and drug addicts in the organization, (3) corruption, and (4) lack of productivity.
SIGAR states however that although the Afghan government has created and begun implementing its anti-corruption strategy and other reforms, questions remain regarding its ability to fully implement the strategy and demonstrate a lasting commitment to combating corruption.
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