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The man leading Afghanistan's anti-corruption fight

Afghanistan announced Monday the launch of a new anticorruption unit. The head of the current effort, Mohammad Yusin Osmani, says Afghanistan needs more prosecutions and inter-agency cooperation.

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There's a joke making the rounds among Afghans: A group of officials go to meet President Hamid Karzai and ask him, "What's your plan for fighting corruption?" Mr. Karzai says, "I will tell you, but first you must give me some money."

Against that cynical backdrop and enormous international pressure, Afghan officials Monday announced the launch of a new anticorruption unit with the help of Interpol and the US. This is the third formal effort to launch a new body aimed at tackling the problem.

In his reelection victory speech, Karzai mentioned by name his current anticorruption czar Mohammad Yusin Osmani. Nearly a year into his job, Mr. Osmani and his Office of Oversight for Anti-Corruption has installed public hotlines and complaints boxes, drafted anticorruption plans with various ministries, and instigated one high-profile takedown of customs agents at the airport. But so far his group has only sent 15 cases to law enforcement agencies, resulting in just a handful of arrests.

The absence of punishment for corrupt officials raises questions about whether the new office will have real teeth either. The problem with the current effort, says Osmani, is that his office lacks the staff and mandate to investigate and prosecute cases. Instead, he must forward what his group finds to the attorney general's office, which is taking months on some cases.

"If this office had the responsibility to gather information, do investigation, and do prosecutions, probably we would be in a much better position in terms of fighting corruption," says Osmani.

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