A top national security aide to Afghan President Hamid Karzai was arrested last week on bribery charges —then released the same day “at the direction of the palace,” a senior U.S. official tells NBC News.
... After the arrest and release of Salehi, Karzai retaliated by ordering an investigation of two U.S.-financed Afghan anti-corruption units, one of which had developed the case against the national security official. Karzai’s office said in a statement that he was concerned that the anti-corruption units – known as the Sensitive Investigation Unit and the Major Crimes Task Force – were violating “human rights principles.”
... Months ago, sources tell NBC News, the Sensitive Investigations Unit, working with U.S. investigators, developed what U.S. officials considered “rock solid evidence” against Salehi. The national security aide was caught on secret wiretaps agreeing to accept a bribe from the deputy director of an Afghan financial company. In exchange, Salehi agreed to use his influence to help quash an investigation of an Afghan “hawala” dealer suspected of moving cash for drug traffickers.
... The issue of corruption has become so sensitive that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee delayed release of a major report on the problem Wednesday because of fears its publication could endanger the Afghan investigators who are making the cases against Karzai's aides, NBC News has learned.