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    Kabul bank scandal: US seeks action

    WASHINGTON (PAN): A top Pentagon official has cautioned the Karzai government that it would be tough for the US Congress to continue with its financial aid to Afghanistan if it does not take action against those responsible for the Kabul bank scandal.

     “We have made it very clear to President Karzai that it was difficult for us to imagine gaining congressional support for continued financial assistance and/or frankly signing a strategic partnership agreement without meaningful progress on the Kabul Bank and other corruption issues,” the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Michele Flournoy, has said.

    The United States, she said, believe that it's very important for both transparency and accountability for charges to be made against people that the Afghan government believes is responsible for the corruption and what's happened at the Kabul Bank.

     “We think that that is for the Afghan government to do and it's very important that the Afghan government release those names, pursue those individuals and the legal process against them,” Flournoy said in response to a question after she deliver her remarks on Afghanistan at the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations.   

    This remains a continued part of not only America’s conversations with the Afghans but the IMF's conversation with the Afghans, she said, adding that there are a number of steps that the IMF has set out for Afghanistan to be able to have continued international financial support.

    There's been some progress made along those steps, but more to be done, the pentagon official asserted. “We believe that a number of steps have been taken and that we are moving in the right direction.  Again, not enough yet.  We're continuing to press this issue.  I think that the linkage between performance on this issue and our ability to sustain our own domestic protocol support for a long-term relationship with Afghanistan, that linkage exists.  It's a reality,” she said.

    Flournoy said the Kabul Bank crisis has became sort of the poster child of corruption in Afghanistan and such a clear problem for the most senior levels of the Afghan government, that they came to understand that unless they start to address this corruption head-on, the systemic corruption, they're going to lose international support and assistance.   

    “I think you've seen the Afghans in recent weeks and months take a number of steps that will ultimately enable them to sit down with the IMF and negotiate a deal moving forward.  But I think it's been a very hard road for them, many more miles to be traveled.  But I think the connection between dealing with corruption and winning a sort of place of legitimacy in the eyes of your population, that connection is finally being made by a number of senior Afghans,” she said.