KABUL -- The Afghan government has established a commission within the Ministry of Defence aimed at eradicating corruption in the Afghan security services.
In its first six months in operation, the Special Commission on Transparency and Combating Corruption fired about 1,400 of the ministry's staff members, including some commanders, the ministry announced in March.
In a ceremony held April 12 in Herat Province, then-Defence Minister Gen. Abdullah Habibi spoke of the government's serious intent to fight corruption.
"We will fight corruption the same way that we fight illicit drugs and terrorism," he said, adding that authorities will identify corruption suspects and bring them to justice if they are guilty.
Habibi resigned from his position Monday (April 24) in the wake of a Taliban attack on 209th Shaheen Corps headquarters in Mazar-e-Sharif on Friday.
"The government has started the fight against corruption," ministry spokesman Gen. Dawlat Waziri told Salaam Times. "The fight, however, needs time to reduce corruption to zero."
A welcome start
Afghans welcome the launch of the ministry's commission to rout out governmental corruption.
"If the government succeeds in eradicating corruption from the Ministry of Defence, the capabilities of our security forces will increase and the enemy will no longer be able to withstand them," Noor Mohammad Daneshjoo, a 28-year-old law and political science student at Kabul University, told Salaam Times.
"Soldiers don't receive quality equipment and logistics in a timely manner due to the existing corruption within the Ministry of Defence," he said, adding that this tardiness could undercut soldiers' morale as well as their ability to do their jobs.
Daneshjoo praised the new measures to combat corruption, calling them "a good start".
International observers praise the government's determination too. "Afghanistan has made substantial progress in improving control over public financial management," said the UN in an April report titled "Afghanistan's Fight against Corruption: the Other Battlefield".
Corruption: a barrier to progress
Governmental corruption is one of the main problems in Afghanistan, said Shazia Naimi, a teacher in Kabul, praising the Defence Ministry's "proper actions" to overcome this challenge.
"The ministry even dismissed a number of generals who were accused of corruption, sending them to court," she told Salaam Times.
Gen. (ret.) Zalmai Wardak, a military analyst in Kabul, called corruption "a great barrier to progress".
"The government has designed a good plan to fight governmental corruption," he told Salaam Times. "This effort, however, can succeed only if it is implemented precisely according to plan."
MP Safoora Elkhani of Bamiyan Province welcomed the government's action, saying she expects full transparency and seriousness in the process.
"We asked the Defence Ministry not only to dismiss those who steal military food, clothing and equipment but also to hand them over to the justice system to face trial," she told Salaam Times.
Gen. Helaluddin Helal, deputy minister of defence for strategic and intelligence affairs, on March 28 provided journalists with performance reports of the Commission on Transparency and Combating Corruption since its inception last October.
The personnel fired in connection with the commission's work included 946 officers, 230 employees in financial departments, 209 officials in charge of contracting and 26 workshop organisers, according to the data provided by Helal.
These staff members have been turned over to the Justice Ministry to face charges like abuse of professional authority, embezzlement, fraud, treason, financial waste and other crimes, he said.
Other personnel are facing investigation by other parts of the government.
Criminal cases related to 1,107 individuals, including officers and soldiers, who face charges of squandering assets and selling arms and ammunition, are under investigation within the Ministry of Defence, according to Helal.
The Commission on Transparency and Combating Corruption has sent the criminal cases of 141 Ministry of Defence employees to the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Fighting Administrative Corruption, he said.