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Karzai Makes Anticorruption Plea


Afghan President Hamid Karzai
President Hamid Karzai has issued a fresh call for Afghan lawmakers and international allies to do more to tackle rampant corruption in Afghanistan.

In a speech to parliament, Karzai said he has been working to combat corruption but that everyone in government needs to work together to end the bribery and kickbacks that drain the country of much-needed resources and stymie progress.

"Corruption has reached a peak in this land -- property grabs, government land grabs, intimidation," Karzai said. "The lack of safety for people's homes are all pains the Afghan people are suffering."

To help combat corruption, Karzai said contracts should not be given to private firms operated by Afghan government officials.

"We hope that the U.S. and other foreign countries stop rewarding reconstruction and commercial contracts to high [Afghan] government officials and their family members," Karzai said. "I told them four years ago not to do this because it would fuel government corruption. Officials taking these contracts are not loyal to their president, security forces, and lawmakers. Their superiors are located somewhere else and are much more powerful than us."

Karzai has repeatedly promised to clean up corruption, but analysts say there have been few results from his initiatives as the government has yet to prosecute a single high-level corruption case.

In order to improve the credibility of his anticorruption efforts, Karzai called for the United States to send former central bank Governor Abdul Qadir Fitrat back to Afghanistan for trial.

Fitrat resigned and fled Afghanistan a year ago, saying he feared for his life as a result of his role in investigating fraud and mismanagement at Kabulbank, which nearly collapsed in 2010 with outstanding loans of almost $1 billion and had ties to the Karzai family and other senior figures.

In his other remarks, Karzai said he expected international donors to pledge some $4 billion in assistance for Afghanistan's economic development at a conference in Tokyo on July 8.

The head of Afghanistan's central bank, Noorullah Delawari, has said his country needs at least $6 billion a year in aid over the next decade to help the economy grow.

Karzai admitted his government and its Western allies have failed to bring peace to Afghanistan, saying that "our land has not been secured, our homes, our people are not safe."

He noted that insurgent attacks on Afghan security forces have increased in recent months as they prepare to take responsibility for security when NATO combat troops leave in 2014.

But the president vowed to do whatever it took to strengthen its defenses, saying, "Afghanistan will eat grass but will build its security forces, with or without foreign money."

He was speaking one day after a suicide attack killed 21 people -- including civilians and three NATO troops -- in the east, close to the Pakistani border, on June 20.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, and Reuters