Karzai admits intervening on behalf of aide
Afghan President Hamid Karzai admitted Sunday to intervening on behalf of one of his top aides imprisoned on corruption charges. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that Karzai secured the release of the aide, Mohammad Zia Salehi, who was arrested on the orders of Karzai's attorney general, according to Afghan officials. A Karzai adviser initially denied the president's involvement.
"Yes, absolutely I intervened," Karzai said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." "Not only did I intervene, but I intervened very, very strongly." Karzai said Salehi was taken from his home by armed men in the middle of the night and thrown into prison. He likened the tactic to those employed by the former Soviet Union during its occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Karzai also defended his decision to disband private security firms working in his country by the end of the year, saying they were "running a parallel security structure to the Afghan government." He blamed the firms for undermining the growth of Afghanistan's army and police forces.
"One of the reasons that I want them disbanded and removed by four months from now is exactly because their presence is preventing the growth and the development of the Afghan Security Forces," Karzai said on ABC's "This Week," adding that the higher salaries paid by private firms hurt police recruitment. He also blamed private contractors for contributing to the rampant corruption in Afghanistan and appealed to U.S. taxpayers to stop funding "Mafia-like" groups who are funding insurgents and terrorism.
Karzai said the war against the Taliban and other insurgent groups is "absolutely winnable," but while his government has "individual contacts" within the Taliban, there is not yet a "formal process" for negotiating with the militants.
The Afghan leader said he was "shocked" to hear of the stoning deaths of a couple by the Taliban and said the incident represented a "failure" of his government to "give protection to the Afghan people."
August 22, 2010; 12:24 PM ET
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