U.S. lawmaker to withhold $3.9 billion in Afghan aid over corruption problems

By Greg Miller
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 29, 2010; A12

The chairman of a key House subcommittee said Monday that she would strip $3.9 billion in aid for Afghanistan from next year's spending bill over concerns about rampant graft in the country and alleged efforts by President Hamid Karzai's government to derail corruption probes.

Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the State Department's budget, said the money would be withheld until she has "confidence that U.S. taxpayer money is not being abused to line the pockets of corrupt Afghan government officials, drug lords and terrorists."

Lowey also announced that the panel would begin holding hearings next month on corruption problems in Afghanistan.

Lowey was responding in part to a report in The Washington Post on Monday that senior officials in Afghanistan have repeatedly blocked corruption investigations of individuals with political connections to Karzai's administration.

In the article, U.S. officials said that Afghan prosecutors and investigators have in recent months been ordered to cross names off case files, prevent senior officials from being placed under arrest, and disregard evidence against executives of a financial firm suspected of helping elite Afghans move vast sums of money to overseas accounts.

"The alleged shipment of billions in donor funds out of Afghanistan and allegations of Afghan government insiders impeding corruption investigations are outrageous," Lowey said in a written statement. She added that the government "must demonstrate that corruption is being aggressively investigated and prosecuted."

Lowey's move would block money used by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to fund projects, such as roads and power plants, designed to bolster Afghanistan's beleaguered economy and infrastructure.

The restriction would not affect money for military operations or humanitarian relief efforts, such as assistance to refugees.

The subcommittee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss the spending plan for the coming year. The money could be reinserted before Oct. 1, when the new fiscal year begins.

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