CIA gave millions in cash to Karzai to spend at will…Times

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan leader, has admitted taking bags of cash from CIA operatives in Kabul, filling a presidential slush fund without any US oversight on how the money was spent.
The money, part of a long tradition of the American intelligence agency trying to buy influence around the world, has been ferried from the CIA’s headquarters at the Ariana Hotel in Kabul to the presidential palace in suitcases and backpacks. On at least one occasion, it was carried in plastic shopping bags.
Separately, Khalil Roman, President Karzai’s former chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, described the payments as “ghost money” in an interview with The New York Times. “It came in secret, and left in secret,” he was quoted as saying.
The money is believed to amount to tens of millions of dollars over the course of the war, funnelled through the powerful Afghan National Security Council for whatever purposes Kabul saw fit.
Mr Karzai, speaking yesterday in Helsinki on a state visit, admitted that the council had received financial support from the US Government for the past ten years. He sought to play down its significance, claiming that the sums were “not a big amount”.
“It’s multi-purpose assistance,” he said, adding that it was used for “various purposes, operational purposes of providing assistance to the wounded, the sick, to certain rents for houses, to all other purposes”.
The donations appear to be an attempt to retain American access to Mr Karzai and his inner circle but might have helped to fuel corruption, with some of the money ending up in the hands of warlords.
At the weekend, the Taleban declared the beginning of its so-called “spring offensive” when the insurgents promised to launch a nationwide series of suicide bomb attacks against Afghan security forces and unspecified “special military tactics” against foreign troops and diplomatic targets.
President Karzai is one of many leaders from countries around the globe, including in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, to have taken cash from the CIA as part of its efforts to keep them on side and influence their decision-making, a former senior US defence official said.
The CIA yesterday declined to comment. But the former official, commenting on the cash-for-Karzai allegations, said the disbursement of regular payments to a leader whom America hoped to influence was “neither a surprise nor shocking”.

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