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For General Petraeus, battling corruption in Afghanistan is a priority

Searching for a missing American sailor, a U.S. Marine boards a bus stopped at a checkpoint in Bagram, Afghanistan. Petty Officer 3rd Class Jarod Newlove, of Seattle, disappeared last week. The Taliban has said it captured Newlove and killed another sailor, Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin McNeley, in a firefight.
Searching for a missing American sailor, a U.S. Marine boards a bus stopped at a checkpoint in Bagram, Afghanistan. Petty Officer 3rd Class Jarod Newlove, of Seattle, disappeared last week. The Taliban has said it captured Newlove and killed another sailor, Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin McNeley, in a firefight. (Majid Saeedi/getty Images)

Western diplomats are concerned that the country's premier anti-corruption body, the High Office of Oversight, suffers from weak leadership and a lack of independence from Karzai. International officials also have long worried that high-level political pressure has prevented indictments of senior Afghan officials suspected of corruption.

"There is no political will on the government side to do anything that is meaningful, although everybody knows they have to say the word 'corruption' every time they talk about Afghanistan," said one Western official who works on the issue in Kabul.

A series of arrests

NATO officials see some hopeful signs -- particularly a string of arrests of senior Afghan army and police officials for drug trafficking, corruption and aiding the Taliban.

In June, Afghan authorities arrested Brig. Gen. Malham Pohanyar, the border police commander in the western province of Herat, on accusations that he was trafficking drugs out of the airport there.

This followed the arrest last October of a senior border police commander in Kandahar, Brig. Gen. Saifullah Hakim, who was charged with collecting the salaries of nonexistent officers and stealing money from a "martyr's fund" for families of slain police officers. A border police official from Paktika province, Col. Ali Shah, has also been arrested, for allegedly stealing and reselling supplies and collecting taxes at illegal checkpoints.

Brig. Gen. Aziz Ahmad Wardak, the Paktia province police chief, was arrested this year on corruption charges and is awaiting trial, according to Afghan officials, and so is the deputy police chief of Kapisa province.

"The recent arrests of corrupt Afghan police and army officers are heartening and represent important steps as the Afghan government works to carry out President Karzai's commitments in recent months to combat corruption," said a senior NATO military officer.

Despite little tangible progress, the senior officer said that Karzai has been "very firm regarding corruption."

Special correspondent Javed Hamdard contributed to this report.


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