Sherkhan Farnood hosts an extraordinary poker game at his lavish Kabul home. The participants: Members of Hamid Karzai's inner circle. The stakes: Thousands of dollars, or more than most Afghan families make in a year. It's striking, because Farnood is supposed to be in jail and his assets frozen, after allegedly embezzling millions from Kabul Bank. Officially, he's on day release to try to recoup the money, but officials tell the New York Times he rarely returns to jail, and they doubt he'll ever stand trial. (Check out what he said about his activities before his arrest.)
Such stories are common in Afghanistan, where Karzai's government is widely reviled for its endemic corruption, a corruption the US seems increasingly reluctant to confront. In December, for instance, Karzai demanded the US send him evidence if it wanted him to prosecute Gen. Ahmad Zia Yaftali, who was accused of stealing tens of millions worth of drugs from the country's top military hospital. Investigators wrote an angry reply—they'd sent him evidence a year ago—but the military didn't send it, fearing a fight with Karzai.