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US Takes Cut of Donations by Allies to Afghanistan

By Ian Traynor

December 03, 2010 "
SMH" --  THE US military has been charging its allies a 15 per cent handling fee on hundreds of millions of dollars raised internationally to build up the Afghan army, according to US diplomatic cables.

Details of the fee are just one of a series of embarrassing revelations regarding Afghanistan that have come to light from documents released by the website WikiLeaks in the past few days.

It has also been disclosed that Afghan officials despaired at the performance of British troops in the south of the country, that scores of nations have lost faith in the leadership of the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, and that only one member of his cabinet is not suspected of corruption.

The handling fee and concerns about a failure to fund projects with the contributions caused deep resentment in the German government, which threatened to cancel its contributions.

A cable to Washington from the US mission to NATO sought instructions on how to respond to the protests from the German ambassador to the military alliance, Ulrich Brandenburg.

''He said that German parliamentarians were beginning to ask questions about how this money has been handled, adding that this could make it difficult for Berlin to provide additional contributions in the future,'' the cable said.

Germany had given €$50 million to the fund that was set up to provide equipment for the Afghan army and finance infrastructure projects.

The US ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, told Washington the German complaint raised ''serious political concerns''.

In other cables the British war effort in the Helmand province received scathing criticism, based on the army's failure to secure the town of Sangin.

The governor of Helmand, Gulab Mangal, told a US team led by the Vice-President, Joe Biden, in January 2009 that US forces were urgently needed because British security in Sangin did not even extend to its main bazaar.

''I do not have anything against [the British] but they must leave their bases and engage with the people,'' Mr Mangal said, according to a cable.

In another cable in January 2009 Mr Mangal was reported to have been scathing towards British officials.

''Stop calling it the Sangin district and start calling it the Sangin base - all you have done here is built a military camp next to the city,'' he said.

The cables also reveal deep disappointment with Mr Karzai. Oman's Foreign Minister said he was ''losing confidence'' in the President, a British diplomat said Britain felt ''deep frustration'' with him, and an Australian official complained that he ''ignores reality''.

A diplomat from the United Arab Emirates said Afghanistan would be better off without Mr Karzai, and NATO's secretary-general speculated he had a split personality.

The cables reveal many corruption allegations. In one incident in October 2009 the then vice-president, Ahmad Zia Massoud, was questioned in Dubai when he flew into the emirate with $US52 million in cash, one diplomatic report states.

Mr Massoud was detained by officials from the US and the United Arab Emirates trying to stop money laundering. But he was let go without explaining where the money came from.

Another memo written by the US diplomat in Kabul noted how many officials owned lavish properties overseas, suggesting ''these individuals are extracting as much wealth as possible while conditions permit''.



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