The Afghanistan Defense Ministry said Sunday it will investigate missing U.S.-donated medicines and pharmaceutical supplies meant for its army and police.
A statement said that the ministry will asses and investigate how much is missing from the $42 million worth of medical goods the U.S. has donated this year.
The statement came after Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak told The Associated Press last week that an investigation had been launched into the issue, and that Surgeon General Ahmad Zia Yaftali had been removed from his post as part of the inquiry. Three officials from the country's top medical facility, Dawood National Military Hospital in Kabul, were fired, he said then.
It's unclear just how much has disappeared from the medical goods the U.S. has donated this year. U.S. officials say they do not account for the supplies after delivering them to the Afghans.
The Americans have repeatedly urged Afghan President Hamid Karzai to root out government corruption to show that his administration can be a true partner in re-establishing control over the country. However, many anti-corruption campaigns have stalled. Last summer, Karzai blocked an investigation into high-level aides supposedly accepting bribes.
It is not clear whether Yaftali was involved in misappropriating medicines, Wardak said last week, or "if it is more on the negligence side." Wardak said, "Once the investigation is finalized, we will know."
Speaking to the AP last week, Yaftali denied the accusations of corruption, saying medicines disappeared before making it to his department and have shown up in pharmacies. He suggested contractors providing the supplies could be to blame, along with U.S. advisers who he said help make the contracts.
At a news conference on Saturday, Yaftali again denied having anything to do with missing medicine or equipment. He added that he launched his own investigation three months ago after he was told by the Defense Ministry's director that U.S. officials claimed $42 million had been given as assistance, but health care still lagged.
Yaftali said the investigation was inconclusive because it was not able to determine what some medicines and equipment were worth, in order to make an assessment.
Yaftali told reporters that he did not yet have a new post but was still on the active reserve list waiting for a new appointment.
He told the news conference that he was possibly removed because of ethnic issues — he is an ethnic Tajik. He did not provide any details on why that would be an issue. He claimed he was the eighth ethnic Tajik general who has been removed from his position in past three months and that none of the others had received a new post.
The Defense Ministry said in its statement that it would "take principal measures regarding the press conference which was given by Gen. Ahmad Zia Yaftali, former health director of Afghan Defense Ministry, in which he made irresponsible comments against the policies and laws of the ministry."