Kabul: The Central Intelligence Agency has been dropping US dollars packed into suitcases, backpacks and, plastic shopping bags every month or so at the offices of Afghanistan`s president for more than a decade.
Khalil Roman, who served as Afghan President Hamid Karzai`s chief of staff from 2002 until 2005, said they called it `ghost money` since it came in secret, and left in secret, reports the New York Times.
The CIA has long been known to support some relatives and close aides of Karzai. But according to some US officials, the cash has fueled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington`s exit strategy from Afghanistan.
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, the report said.
American and Afghan officials familiar with the payments said the agency`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, which wields tremendous power in Afghanistan`s highly centralized government.
Karzai signed a strategic partnership deal with the US last year, directly leading the Iranians to halt their payments, two senior Afghan officials said.
Now, 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 clandestine war against al 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, many of whom have ties to the drug trade and, in some cases, the Taliban.
The result, American and Afghan officials said, is that the agency has greased the wheels of the same patronage networks that American diplomats and law enforcement agents have struggled unsuccessfully to dismantle, leaving the government in the grips of what are basically organized crime syndicates.