KABUL -- The fight against corruption within Afghanistan's security institutions is yielding visible results, Afghan observers and citizens say.
Efforts against administrative corruption have stepped up of late, according to Manizha Bahar, a civil society activist in Kabul.
"In recent months, we have witnessed the apprehension and prosecution of a number of senior officials in the Defence and Interior ministries ... on corruption charges," she told Salaam Times.
"Such actions are promising because, up until now, Afghans thought that senior government officials, especially those in the security sector, would not be punished even if they committed acts of corruption," she said.
Crackdown on corruption
The Ministry of Defence has a clear policy regarding the fight against administrative corruption, betrayal, fraud and bribery, according to Gen. Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the ministry.
A commission exists within the Defence Ministry in which representatives from the legal, audit and intelligence directorates "identify individuals suspected of committing acts of corruption and report them to the attorney general", he told Salaam Times.
During the past year, the attorney general's Anti-Corruption Criminal Justice Centre, which is responsible for combating serious cases of administrative corruption, has prosecuted a number of generals and other officials from the Defence and Interior ministries.
"So far, a number of Defence Ministry officials who have been charged with corruption have been referred to the Attorney General's Office," Waziri said. "Either their cases are under investigation, or the courts have already issued their sentences, and they have already been imprisoned."
In the past six months, the Ministry of Interior has referred 60 individuals suspected of corruption, according to information provided to Salaam Times by the ministry's press office.
Those charged from both ministries ranged from high-ranking generals to soldiers.
Punishment meted out, money recovered
There are nearly 35 cases of Defence and Interior Ministry employees who are under investigation at the Anti-Corruption Criminal Justice Centre, according to Jamshid Rasuli, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office.
He mentioned the case of Gen. Khalil Andarabi, former police chief of Maidan Wardak Province, as one of the more recent examples.
A primary court at the anti-corruption centre October 23 sentenced Andarabi and five of his colleagues to three years in prison for misuse of authority and embezzling more than 24 million AFN ($350,000) from their employees' salaries.
"The cases that are being investigated by the [anti-corruption centre] are related to generals and civilian officials all the way to the deputy [minister] levels, and the financial amounts of these cases are very large," Rasuli said.
In another case, a three-star general who used to work as a logistics deputy at the Ministry of Interior was publicly convicted and sentenced January 10.
Maj. Gen. Abdul Wase Raufi, head of the ministry's procurement commission, was convicted of awarding a fuel contract to a company in return for 10 million AFN ($150,000).
Pursuit of these cases has enabled authorities to return the embezzled funds to the treasury.
Through reviewing contracts and preventing corruption, the Afghan government has saved 6.1 billion AFN ($89 million), according to Waziri.
Motivating soldiers, increasing confidence
Fighting corrupt individuals in security institutions is essential and has bolstered the morale of soldiers on the battlefield, said Gen. (ret.) Atiqullah Amarkhil, a military analyst in Kabul who served in the Afghan National Army.
"The negative effects of corruption can be seen in the entire military system," he told Salaam Times.
Corruption can eliminate discipline, replace regulations with nepotism, increase casualties and lead to soldiers losing their positions and weapons, he said.
"Corrupt and treasonous individuals should be tried, regardless of their status," Amarkhil said. "Those involved in corruption should be punished, regardless of their affiliations, their ethnic background or their relationships with state officials."
"[Sending] corrupt security officials to the courts and replacing them with committed individuals as heads of security institutions will increase the morale of soldiers on the battlefield," Safiullah, a native of Kunar Province, told Salaam Times.
These efforts will allow the public to trust the state's seriousness in fighting corruption, he said.