KABUL (Reuters) - At least two Afghan cabinet ministers have embezzled millions of dollars of public money, the country's anti-graft chief said at the weekend, adding to Western pressure on President Hamid Karzai to clean up his government.
Donor countries say corruption in Karzai's administration is endemic, and a fundamental threat to their efforts to stabilize the country ahead of the end-2014 deadline for foreign combat troops to quit the country, having handed security responsibilities to Afghan institutions.
Billions of dollars in foreign aid have flowed into the country since a U.S.-led military operation threw the Taliban out of government 10 years ago, but the cash has paid for only limited infrastructure and development work, while violence is at its worst since 2001.
"There are former ministers too, but two or three current cabinet ministers have embezzled millions of dollars," said Azizullah Ludin, a Karzai appointee who heads the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption, speaking in his Kabul home.
Ludin said he had sent the cases to the Attorney General's office which will decide whether or not to prosecute, but he did not name the ministers involved or give details.
"Corruption in Afghanistan has damaged our reputation, withheld foreign aid and created distance between people and the government," Ludin said. "This must be stopped."
(Reporting by Mohammad Ibrahim; Writing by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Daniel Magnowski and Sugita Katyal)