Afghanistan announces corruption crackdown

Afghanistan's justice minister will lead a new unit to take on corruption, following international criticism of widespread kickbacks and allegations the country's presidential elections were plagued with fraud.

Afghanistan's justice minister will lead a new unit to take on corruption, following international criticism of widespread kickbacks and allegations the country’s presidential elections were plagued with fraud.

"Corruption is the cancer that is destroying the lives of the people," said Justice Minister Mohammad Sarwar Danish in Kabul.

Corruption is considered a major problem in Afghanistan, especially in Kandahar. For example, thousands of police officers are thought to be on the take in some form, while other government officials expect extra payments to process official documentation that affect the daily lives of Afghans.

Interior Minister Hanif Atmar acknowledged accusations of bribery among police, but said there also were many Afghan police officers who risk their lives daily to enforce order.

"For the next five years, the priority of Karzai is to fight corruption," he said.

But President Hamid Karzai has appointed many people to the panel who were involved in the recent election that has been accused of wide-spread corruption, including ballot box stuffing.

"So it really is something of an open question to see how uncorrupt a corruption panel could be when there are some of the people who are part of the government that is now considered to be corrupt," CBC's James Murray said, reporting from Kandahar.

The announcement comes as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned on Sunday that Afghanistan won't get any more civilian aid from the United States unless it does more to tackle corruption and goes after those suspected of looting aid in the past.

"I have made it clear that we're not going to be providing any civilian aid to Afghanistan unless we have a certification that if it goes into the Afghan government in any form, that we're going to have ministries that we can hold accountable," Clinton said on Sunday.

Transparency International, a non-governmental organization, last year ranked Afghanistan 176th out of 180 countries on its corruption perceptions index, a poll that assesses the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians. Only Haiti, Iraq, Myanmar and Somalia were worse.

The country's first anti-corruption body was disbanded after its head's previous conviction and imprisonment on drug charges in the United States came to light. A new anti-corruption office was launched last summer with a media blitz, promises of high-level trials and the firing of dozens of judges.

With files from The Associated Press