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From a 2010 CNN news report, Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai speaks of receiving cash payments from Iran, the United States, and "other friendly nations."
For over a decade the CIA has been delivering money to the offices of Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, in the shadiest ways possible: suitcases, backpacks, and plastic bags full of cash. The New York Times reports that tens of millions of dollars have gone to Karzai’s office. And it doesn’t seem like the CIA is getting what it wants for its money: much of it is used to pay off warlords and politicians, many with ties to the drug trade, fueling the corruption U.S. diplomats have been trying to fight. “The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan,” an American official told the Times, “was the United States.”
For more than a decade, wads of American dollars packed into suitcases, backpacks and, on occasion, plastic shopping bags have been dropped off every month or so at the offices of Afghanistan’s president — courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency.
All told, tens of millions of dollars have flowed from the C.I.A. to the office of President Hamid Karzai, according to current and former advisers to the Afghan leader.
“We called it ‘ghost money,’ ” said Khalil Roman, who served as Mr. Karzai’s deputy chief of staff from 2002 until 2005. “It came in secret, and it left in secret.”
The C.I.A., which declined to comment for this article, has long been known to support some relatives and close aides of Mr. Karzai. But the new accounts of off-the-books cash delivered directly to his office show payments on a vaster scale, and with a far greater impact on everyday governing.
Moreover, there is little evidence that the payments bought the influence the C.I.A. sought. Instead, some American officials said, the cash has fueled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington’s exit strategy from Afghanistan.
“The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan,” one American official said, “was the United States.”
The United States was not alone in delivering cash to the president. Mr. Karzai acknowledged a few years ago that Iran regularly gave bags of cash to one of his top aides.
At the time, in 2010, American officials jumped on the payments as evidence of an aggressive Iranian campaign to buy influence and poison Afghanistan’s relations with the United States. What they did not say was that the C.I.A. was also plying the presidential palace with cash — and unlike the Iranians, it still is.
When word of the Iranian cash leaked out in October 2010, Mr. Karzai told reporters that he was grateful for it. He then added: “The United States is doing the same thing. They are providing cash to some of our offices.” (See the video above)
At the time, Mr. Karzai’s aides said he was referring to the billions in formal aid the United States gives. But the former adviser said in a recent interview that the president was in fact referring to the C.I.A.’s bags of cash.