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Afghanistan court jails top government official for drug trade ties

The Primary Court for the Afghan Criminal Justice Task Force (CJTV) [official website] on Tuesday fined former Afghan police chief General Mohlem $14,000 and sentenced him to 10 years in prison for connections he was found to have with drug traffickers. The sentence is the country's first for a high-ranking government official tied to the drug trade. The tribunal, created specifically to crack down on drug-related corruption, tried more than 600 people last year under mounting pressure from the West to clean up corruption connected to the opium trade [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], which many believe allows the Taliban insurgency to thrive. Also, on Monday, a special task force backed by the U.S. and Britain asked [WSJ report] Afghan President Hamid Karzai [official website; JURIST news archive] for permission to investigate several other senior officials on corruption charges, including members of Karzai's cabinet. Karzai has not yet granted the request, and has instead commissioned an investigation into the western-backed task force.

Karzai has responded to Western pressure by pledging to reduce corruption in his administration. In July, his cabinet approved a bill [JURIST report] that would allow high-ranking government officials to be tried for corruption. US President Barack Obama has made curbing corruption in the Afghan government a point of emphasis in his administration's foreign policy. In March, during a surprise visit to the country, Obama urged the government to reduce corruption [JURIST report] and institute an effective judicial system. Obama called on Karzai to take steps to promote good governance [CBS/AP report], end cronyism and curtail the opium trade. Last November, Karzai pledged to fight corruption [JURIST report] in his government during his inaugural address [text, PDF]. In his speech, Karzai announced that he would organize a conference to research the sources of the corruption and bribery and find ways to combat it.

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