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Former Afghan Minister Questions Ghani’s Crackdown on Corruption

WASHINGTON – A former official with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on Monday accused President Ashraf Ghani of being complicit in the political corruption he has vowed to eradicate.

“For the past few months the president has simply engaged in giving away any position for political purposes,” Anwar ul-Haq Ahady, Afghanistan’s former minister of Finance and Transportation and Commerce said at the Brooking Institution. “He is creating parallel government. For the same position, he has created two, three position so that he can give it away to politicians.”

Ahady also made scathing remarks regarding the president’s progress on security, three days after the Taliban took credit for attacking Camp Shaheen, an army command center in the northern Balkh province of Afghanistan, killing more than 140 Afghan soldiers. Ahady, who served under former President Hamid Karzai, said Ghani has reversed progress made by his predecessor and that the country no longer has the minimum level of security required to encourage investment in the region.

Ahady’s comments are in stark contrast to Ghani’s actions on Monday, when he accepted the resignations of Minister of Defense Abdullah Habibi and Army Chief of Staff Qadam Shah Shahim. Ghani also reassigned four of seven Afghan National Army commanders, including the head of the 209th Corps, the unit that was attacked Friday. Ghani has vowed to fight corruption since taking office in 2014, the same year he accepted resignations of five high-ranking officials, including the heads of the oil, power and customs departments.

Hamdullah Mohib, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the U.S., who also participated in the Brookings event, defended the president, saying that Monday’s resignations and reassignments are the start of a comprehensive reform plan.

“This event expedited some of the actions that were already being taken, but this wouldn’t be the last of the reform,” Mohib said. “This is just the beginning of what is to come there.”

Following a weeklong trip across the region, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Monday made an unannounced visit to Kabul, where he met with President Ghani and other officials.

Mattis said at a news conference that 2017 “is going to be another tough year for the valiant Afghan security forces and the international troops who have stood and who will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Afghanistan against terrorism.”

The Ghani administration in a statement Monday said the military reassignments were made “in order to promote accountability as a new chapter of ethical behavior in the political system of the country.” Ghani described Habibi and Shahim as “honest sons of the country” and thanked them for their service.

“The president expressed that qualified individuals will be appointed in these positions, adding that experiences and capabilities of the outgoing Minister and Army Chief of Staff will be utilized in other areas,” the administration said in a statement.

Friday’s Taliban attack, carried out by assailants wearing military disguises, targeted soldiers leaving prayer services at the camp’s mosque. Mohib described the victims as unsuspecting “soft targets.”

“Last Friday’s attack by the Taliban that killed more than 140 of our brave soldiers was not just an attack on our security forces but our country and our people,” Mohib said.

Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow with the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, said that it’s no secret the past three years have been “enormously challenging” in Afghanistan.

“It’s encouraging to hear about the changes in the military,” Felbab-Brown said. “We’ll see how much they will affect the battlefield, but it’s clearly something that’s been overdue.”