The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

Menendez rejects Karzai’s statements on U.S. corruption

In mid-February, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul and afterwards, Karzai accused the United States of fueling Afghan corruption. Karzai was just playing local politics, Menendez said Friday. Karzai’s office issued a press release after their Feb. 19 meeting entitled, "President Karzai: Fight against Corruption ...

612996_bob_32.jpg
612996_bob_32.jpg

In mid-February, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul and afterwards, Karzai accused the United States of fueling Afghan corruption.

Karzai was just playing local politics, Menendez said Friday.

Karzai's office issued a press release after their Feb. 19 meeting entitled, "President Karzai: Fight against Corruption Requires Earnest and Sincere Cooperation of the International Community, Particularly of the United States."

In mid-February, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul and afterwards, Karzai accused the United States of fueling Afghan corruption.

Karzai was just playing local politics, Menendez said Friday.

Karzai’s office issued a press release after their Feb. 19 meeting entitled, "President Karzai: Fight against Corruption Requires Earnest and Sincere Cooperation of the International Community, Particularly of the United States."

Reading the press release, one would think a major topic of the meeting was American contracts in Afghanistan and their contribution to corruption in that country.

"The President called awarding of contracts to relatives and affiliates of Afghan senior officials, a major source of corruption, underscoring that the United States should avoid it," the release said. "He added that contracts awarded to the senior officials’ relatives and affiliates would weaken Afghanistan’s system, making the anti-corruption campaign more susceptible to problems."

In a conference call with reporters Friday, Menendez said he was surprised when he read the press release because the issue of corruption and the influence of U.S. government contracts was not actually a major topic of his meeting with Karzai.

"In the totality of our discussion, that was not the major focus of that meeting," Menendez said.

But all politics are local, and Menendez said Karzai’s press release was probably aimed at a domestic audience, specifically a group of officials who met with Karzai before Menendez and were complaining about corruption in how U.S. contracts were being awarded to a relative of Karzai’s, Menendez said.

"President Karzai had received earlier that day a group of representatives from Kandahar who were complaining about one of his relatives and some abuse of his position vis-à-vis business interests that he was perusing. Karzai was evidently disturbed by that meeting and lashed out for a few minutes on that issue," Menendez said. "[U.S.] Ambassador [James] Cunningham was with me and didn’t even know what he was talking about on this and from what I gathered before having left the country, I’m not even sure that it is what [Karzai] suggested."

Menendez told Karzai that the United States is spending a lot of money on rule of law and governance in Afghanistan and he said it was the Afghan government’s job to put that money to good use and establish systems to combat corruption.

Menendez said he told Karzai: "I find it a little unique that whatever it is your meeting produced with those representatives from that area is more about the U.S. and less about the appropriate governance within your own structure."

Some reports last week noted the irony of Karzai’s press release, considering that Menendez himself is under FBI investigation for allegedly trying to secure favors for his friend and benefactor Salmon Melgen, including allegedly lobbying for a port security contract in the Dominican Republic in which Melgen has a financial interest.

Menendez has acknowledged he failed to report trips he took on Melgen’s plane and has since reimbursed Melgen for those costs. Menendez has denied any improper actions on behalf of Melgen’s business interests.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.