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Afghan General Tasked With Cutting Corruption Now Accused of It

“I am home,” he said. “What the government is saying are all allegations. If they prove them, I am ready to be hanged.”

General Faqir also said he had been fired “about five to six months ago.” His dismissal had long been rumored, but not previously confirmed publicly.

The 215th Corps, with an estimated 18,000 soldiers, is one of the Afghan National Army’s six combat corps, and the one that has seen by far the heaviest fighting in recent years, as the Taliban have gone from controlling two of Helmand’s districts to dominating a dozen of them. Helmand is also the center of the opium poppy trade and the producer of most of Afghanistan’s heroin, which has been a major factor contributing to corruption.

Also under investigation is the provincial police chief in Helmand, Abdul Rahman Sarjang, also appointed as a reformer by President Ashraf Ghani and then fired by him last year, allegedly for selling the posts of district chiefs of police in the province.

Maj. Gen. Dawlat Waziri, the spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, insisted that General Faqir had been arrested.

“His corruption case was in process in the attorney general’s office and yesterday he was present there for investigation and then he was arrested,” General Waziri said.

General Helal said the specific charges against General Faqir included misuse of supplies and soldiers’ food, neglect of duty and lack of transparency in the use of fuel, food and other supplies. The theft of fuel intended for army vehicles has long been a concern of the American authorities, and the subject of investigations by the special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction. Most Afghan military expenditures are paid for by the United States government.

Theft of money meant to buy food for soldiers has also been a common problem, extending even into the main military hospital, where in 2011 some soldier patients reportedly starved to death.

The American military has been concerned enough about the deteriorating situation in Helmand that in the past two years it has sent reinforcements to the province, both as trainers to help build up the 215th Corps, and as special operations troops to supplement Afghan military operations. Another 300 United States Marines are due in Helmand his spring, the first such deployment there since 2014.

In an interview in March 2016, General Faqir boasted that he not only did he clean up corruption in the 215th Corps after he took over in late 2015, but he also brought greater government control to the province — claims that were soon contradicted by events on the ground.

“I have brought about reform in this camp,” he said. “There are no ghost soldiers in this corps now.”

At the time, the general had seemed particularly concerned about bringing in flowers by helicopter to beautify his headquarters.

Some of his officers said that fighting had died down for a while because General Faqir seemed uninterested in fighting the Taliban. Some local officials were scathing. “Whether a police chief or a corps commander, they’re only here to fill their empty pockets,” said Mullah Majid Akhonzada, the deputy chairman of the Helmand provincial council, referring to General Faqir and General Sarjang.

Jamshid Rasuli, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s attorney general, denied that the accused general was sitting at home. “General Faqir is under detention, he was arrested yesterday,’’ he said. “I cannot say his location for security reason, but he is under the government’s detention.”

A spokesman for President Ghani declined to comment on the charges against General Faqir and General Sarjang. “We don’t have any reaction, as both generals are under investigation,” said the spokesman, Shah Hussain Murtazawi.

The strategic district of Sangin in Helmand, where more British, American and coalition soldiers have died than in any other place in Afghanistan, fell last week to the Taliban. General Waziri, however, insisted that it had not fallen, and that officials had simply moved the district center to protect the civilian population.

Source: NYT > World

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