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Karzai Declares Assets To Offset Corruption Smear

Afghan President Hamid Karzai announces his assets during a press conference in Kabul.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai announces his assets during a press conference in Kabul.

KABUL (Reuters) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has hinted he will run in a crucial election in August, said foreigners exaggerate the extent of corruption in Afghanistan for political reasons, while publicly announcing his earnings.

Karzai, who said that he earns 24,350 afghanis ($487) each month, has faced criticism from both Afghans and his Western backers for failing to curb corruption, which is seen as rampant in Afghanistan.

"Foreigners have defamed Afghanistan so badly in terms of corruption. But it's not as serious as they think," the Afghan leader told reporters at a news conference during which he signed a form outlining his and his wife's wealth, income, and debts.

Corruption is perceived to be rife in the former Taliban state, with top cadres of the government, including members of Karzai's own family, being accused of profiting from the problem.

"The [Afghan] government is not as [foreigners] describe. It is only political pressure from them, which says, "come on our side, or we will defame you"," he said.

Karzai said he had no debts, did not own a private house or car and had no land, while his wife owned 511,000 afs ($10,220) worth of jewelry.

Every government employee would be required to declare their assets, income, and debts in a new public registry, which would be kept and managed by a government department responsible for preventing corruption, Karzai said.

"I hope all the government employees and high-ranking officials will fill this form and register their property to show the public more transparency and an accountable government," he said.

The Afghan leader also said he had a Frankfurt-based bank account which contained $10,000 at the time he opened it, when he was fighting with the mujahedin against the Taliban about 11 years ago. Karzai added he has not checked his balance since then.

There are some 70,000 U.S. and NATO-led troops based in Afghanistan fighting a worsening Taliban-led insurgency, and Karzai has criticized his Western backers in the past for their role in civilian casualties.

The United States is set to unveil a strategy review of its involvement in Afghanistan on March 27, which is expected to emphasize the need for more civilian assistance for Afghanistan and a strengthening of Afghan security forces.