New York: Iran has provided millions of dollars to Afghan President Hamid Karzai`s chief of staff Umar Daudzai in "a secret, steady stream of cash" in a bid to buy his loyalty and drive a wedge between Afghans and Americans, a media report claimed on Sunday.
Daudzai, Karzai`s most trusted confidant, received a large plastic bag bulging with packets of euro, which was intended to buy his loyalty and promote Iran`s interests in the presidential palace, New York Times quoted Afghan and Western officials as saying.
The payment, which was a part of a secret, steady stream of Iranian cash, illustrates the degree to which the Iranian government has penetrated Karzai`s inner circle despite his presumed alliance with the United States and the other NATO countries, which have sustained him with military forces and billions of dollars since the Taliban`s ouster since 2001, the newspaper said.
"This is the Iranian money," said an Afghan official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Many of us noticed this."
Iran uses its influence to help drive a wedge between the Afghans and their American and NATO benefactors, officials say.
The money intended to secure the allegiance of Daudzai, a former ambassador to Iran who consistently advocates an anti-Western line to Karzai, the officials said.
"Karzai knows that without the US, he is finished," an associate of the President said.
"But it`s like voodoo. Daudzai is the source of all the problems with the US He is systematically feeding him misinformation, disinformation and wrong information."
The money was used "to pay Afghan lawmakers, tribal elders and even Taliban commanders to secure their loyalty”, according to another official.
"It`s basically a presidential slush fund," a Western official in Kabul said of the Iranian-supplied money.
"Daudzai’s mission is to advance Iranian interests." Officials said they were motivated by a concern that Daudzai was helping to poison relations between Karzai and the United States.
However, Daudzai and Karzai both declined to respond to written questions about their relationship with Iran. An aide to Daudzai dismissed the allegations as "rubbish”.
Feda Hussein Maliki, the Iranian ambassador in Kabul, also declined to answer questions. A spokesman for Maliki called the allegations "devilish gossip by the West and foreign media”.
Earlier this year, when Iranian President Ahmadinejad visited Kabul, he brought two boxes of cash, an Afghan official said.
"One box was for Daudzai personally, the other for the palace," the official said.
A senior NATO officer said that the Iranian government was conducting an aggressive campaign inside Afghanistan to undermine the American and NATO mission and to gain influence in politics.
Obama administration officials have also expressed alarm about Iranian intentions.