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For ‘access’ to Kabul,CIA sends money to Karzai

For more than a decade,tens of millions of dollars — packed into suitcases,backpacks and,on occasion,plastic shopping bags

Written by New York Times | Kabul | Published: April 30, 2013 1:09 am

MATTHEW ROSENBERG

For more than a decade,tens of millions of dollars — packed into suitcases,backpacks and,on occasion,plastic shopping bags — have flowed to the office of Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai. The payments are courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),according to current and former advisers to Karzai.

“We called it ‘ghost money,’” said Khalil Roman,who served as Karzai’s deputy chief of staff from 2002 until 2005. “It came in secret,and it left in secret.”

The CIA,which declined to comment for this article,has long been known to support some relatives and close aides of Karzai. But the new accounts of off-the-books cash delivered directly to his office show payments on a vaster scale.

Moreover,there is little evidence that the payments bought the influence the CIA 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 US was not alone in delivering cash to the president. Karzai acknowledged a few years ago that Iran regularly gave bags of cash to one of his top aides.

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 US. What they did not say was that the CIA was also plying the presidential palace with cash — and unlike the Iranians,it still is.

American and Afghan officials said the CIA’s main goal in providing the cash has been to maintain access to Karzai and his inner circle and to guarantee the agency’s influence at the presidential palace. The officials spoke about the money only on the condition of anonymity.

It is not clear that the US is getting what it pays for. Karzai’s willingness to defy the US on an array of issues seems to have only grown as the cash has piled up. Instead of securing his good graces,the payments may well illustrate the opposite: Karzai is seemingly unable to be bought.

Karzai is seeking control over the Afghan militias raised by the CIA to target operatives of al-Qaeda and insurgent commanders,potentially upending a critical part of the Obama administration’s plans for fighting militants as conventional military forces pull back this year.

But the CIA has continued to pay,believing it needs Karzai’s ear to run its war against Qaeda and its allies,according to American and Afghan officials.

Like the Iranian cash,much of the CIA’s money goes to paying off warlords and politicians. The cash does not appear to be subject to the oversight and restrictions placed on official American aid. There is no evidence that Karzai. Payments ordinarily range from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars,the officials said. The money is used to cover a slew of off-the-books expenses,like paying off lawmakers or underwriting delicate diplomatic trips or informal negotiations.

Karzai confirms CIA payments

KABUL: While confirming the New York Times report,Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said on Monday that his national security team has been receiving payments from the US government for the past 10 years.Karzai said said the CIA had given the Afghan National Security Council tens of millions of dollars in monthly payments. During a news conference in Helsinki,Finland,where he was on an official visit,Karzai said the welcome monthly payments were not a “big amount” but were a “small amount”. He said they were used to give assistance to the wounded and sick,to pay rent for housing and for other ”operational” purposes. AP

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