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12/02/2010 05:24 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

WikiLeaks: Afghanistan Corruption Is 'Overwhelming'

This story is being updated.

The New York Times is reporting on cables that describe the scale of corruption in Afghanistan as "overwhelming" and quotes Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry as saying one of the U.S.'s biggest challenges in Afghanistan was "how to fight corruption and connect the people to their government, when the key government officials are themselves corrupt."

Corruption in Afghanistan is well documented, with the war-torn country ranking as the third most corrupt in the world, according to Transparency International's annual list. However, the Times notes:

But the collection of confidential diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to a number of publications, offers a fresh sense of its pervasive nature, its overwhelming scale, and the dispiriting challenge it poses to American officials who have made shoring up support for the Afghan government a cornerstone of America's counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.

The Guardian cites one example of the rampant corruption, telling of then-Vice President Ahmad Zia Massoud arriving in Dubai with "$52 million in cash." Says the report:

Massoud, the younger brother of the legendary anti-Soviet resistance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, was detained by officials from the US and the United Arab Emirates trying to stop money laundering, it says.

However, the vice-president was allowed to go on his way without explaining where the money came from.

The cable, sent by the ambassador, Karl Eikenberry, detailed the colossal scale of capital flight from Afghanistan - often with the cash simply carried out on flights from Kabul to the UAE.

Massoud has denied the allegations.

Elsewhere, the New York Times relayed the damning views some diplomats hold of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, including Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg calling Mr. Karzai as "indecisive and unprepared" during a meeting. The fraught relationship between Karzai and the U.S. is characterized as "one that began as lukewarm, turned frigid and is back to lukewarm."

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