KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan's president pledged Friday to let Western-backed anticorruption teams pursue investigations free from political interference after two rounds of candid talks with U.S. Sen. John Kerry.
Kerry urged President Hamid Karzai to move quickly to combat corruption or risk losing support in the U.S. Congress at a critical phase in the war. U.S. lawmakers have expressed doubt the military effort can succeed without a serious campaign against bribery and graft that have eroded the Afghan people's trust in the Karzai government.
Kerry, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met twice with Karzai on Tuesday and then returned for a second, unscheduled round of talks Friday. After the meeting, the two appeared before cameras and Karzai made his first public remarks about two investigative units instrumental in the arrest of one of Karzai's top advisers.
Mohammad Zia Salehi, who has been released pending charges, was arrested over allegedly accepting a car in exchange for pressuring Afghan officials to ease off in a corruption case.
Soon after Salehi's arrest, Karzai met with members of a panel he set up to review the work of the Major Crimes Task Force and the Sensitive Investigative Unit. Karzai released a statement saying all cases under investigation should be reviewed by the panel and reported to the president.
That sparked concern that Karzai was attempting to derail corruption inquiries into top officials in his government.