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The strategies of the Central Intelligence Agency are often shrouded in secrecy, but the New York Times revealed one tactic today, reporting the CIA delivered bags of cash to President Hamid Karzai's office for over a decade in an attempt to buy influence in Afghanistan.
Karzai confirmed receiving the money this morning.
“Yes, the Office of the National Security Advisor has been receiving support from the United States government for the past ten years, monthly, in a not big amount though, small amount, which has been used for various purposes,” Karzai said.
The CIA’s bribery tactics in Afghanistan are well-known. Karzai told CNN’s Barbara Starr in 2010 that Afghanistan was receiving money from both the United States and Iran.
While it is unclear whether Karzai has personally spent any of the money, Peter Galbraith, a former U.S. Ambassador and Deputy United Nations Special Representative in Afghanistan, says this development raises serious questions about the tactics used in the Afghanistan War.
“It’s indicative of the problems that we’re facing in Afghanistan,” said Galbraith. “We’re trying to fight corruption and at the same time an agency of the government is dropping off millions of dollars, sometimes in shopping bags, to the president, no accounting, clearly being used for purposes, maybe semi-governmental purposes like bribing lawmakers. But with all the corruption swirling around the country we don’t quite know whose pockets it’s been going into.”
Ambassador Galbraith also pointed to the strained relationship between the United States and Afghanistan, which might make this financial dealing surprising to some.
Karzai “has accused us of working with the Taliban, accused us of rigging the election that he himself stole. It’s a bit bizarre,” said Galbraith, adding that the U.S. is probably not getting what it paid for.
“One of the reasons we’re probably doing it is apparently because the Iranians are doing it, and they’re doing it the same way. They’re putting money into shopping bags,” said Galbraith.
Galbraith was skeptical of the Afghan president long before the CIA’s bags of cash made headlines.
Karzai “produced one million phony votes from the election commission that he had appointed in the 2009 elections. There are allegations of corruption surrounding his family. And Afghanistan itself ranks as the third most corrupt country in the world by Transparency International,” said Galbraith.