A new survey finds that corruption in Afghanistan has doubled since 2007, with Afghans paying nearly $1 billion in bribes last year.
In a study released Thursday, Kabul-based Integrity Watch Afghanistan found that nearly one in seven Afghans regularly pay bribes, with poor rural households being hit hardest by corruption.
The 6,500 survey respondents from 32 (of 34) Afghan provinces ranked the country's interior ministry, justice ministry and intelligence agency as the most corrupt.
Integrity Watch Afghanistan co-director Lorenzo Delesgues says the study finds a clear link between increased corruption and the increased power of the Taliban, as more Afghans become disillusioned by government officials.
The United States and its NATO allies have called on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to do more to fight graft and improve governance, as international and Afghan forces battle a growing Taliban insurgency.
In the latest violence, Afghan officials said gunmen shot and killed the police intelligence director for western Kabul, Mohammad Gul, as he returned home from his office late Wednesday. In eastern Paktia province, the interior ministry says six civilians were killed Thursday when a rocket fired by insurgents hit a bazaar.
Also Thursday, NATO said a joint international-Afghan investigative team determined that Wednesday's "friendly fire" airstrike which killed six Afghan soldiers in Ghazni province was the result of miscommunication between NATO and Afghan forces.
The alliance also said two of its service members were killed in separate attacks Thursday. Officials said an American soldier died in an insurgent attack in the country's east, and another soldier died from a roadside bomb attack in the south.
U.S. Under Secretary of Defense (for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics) Ashton Carter said Thursday the United States is spending $3 billion for equipment to combat roadside bombs in Afghanistan.
Carter said the money will be used for surveillance blimps, heavily armored vehicles, and equipment to detect improvised explosive devices.
A recent United Nations report found the number of roadside bombings in Afghanistan jumped 94 percent in the first three months of this year compared to the same period in 2009.
In the east in Paktia province, the interior ministry says six civilians were killed Thursday when a rocket fired by insurgents hit a bazaar.
And NATO said two of its service members were killed in separate attacks Thursday. Officials said an American soldier died in an insurgent attack in the country's east, and another soldier died from a roadside bomb attack in the south.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday reports that the Taliban is rejecting peace negotiations with NATO are false and that NATO has never offered such negotiations.
In a video message, the NATO chief also said the July 20 development conference in Kabul will be a milestone for Afghanistan.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, Reuters, and AFP.