The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency allegedly delivered tens of millions of U.S. dollars to the office of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai for over a decade, according to current and former Karzai advisors cited by the New York Times.
Karzai confirmed Monday that he has been receiving money from the CIA and dismissed the cash payments as a “small amount,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
The “ghost money” was supposed to buy influence for the CIA, but U.S. officials say the money funded corruption and warlords and undermined the U.S. exit strategy from Afghanistan.
“The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan,” said one American official, “was the United States.”
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The New York Times did not provide any evidence that Karzai received the money himself, but Karzai confirmed to reporters at a Monday briefing in Helsinki, Finland, that he did.
"Yes, the office of the national security has been receiving support from the United States for the past 10 years," said Mr. Karzai, who is currently touring northern Europe. "Monthly. Not a big amount. A small amount, which has been used for various purposes."
“We called it ‘ghost money’,” Karzai’s former chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, Khalil Roman, told the New York Times. “It came in secret and it left in secret.”
The money was reportedly delivered every month or so to Karzai’s office in plastic shopping bags, suitcases and backpacks. Afghan officials claim the money was used to reward supporters, secure loyalty from tribal leaders, and pay warlords tied to the drug trade or the Taliban.
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Nahid Fareed, a member of parliament from western Herat province, said if Karzai received the secret payments it represents a "serious issue".
"Any hidden money that the palace receives from indirect channels, such as spy agencies, notably the CIA, is against national interest and is treason," Fareed said.
Jana Mosazai, Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman, told reporters in Kabul that there is no evidence that such payments ever took place.
The New York Times report also alleges the bags of cash Karzai received in 2010 from Iran were also used in a similar way, to pay Afghan politicians and warlords.