The CIA Gave Millions in Cash to Afghan President for Over a Decade

In order to gain access to Afghan president Hamid Karzai's inner circle, the CIA secretly sent tens of millions of dollars to Karzai's office for over a decade. The money, all straight cash, of course, was delivered approximately every month and was packed in suitcases, backpacks, and plastic bags.

The New York Times reports these payments – the first known to be given directly to Karzai – show the U.S. government's off-the-books payment to Afghan officials occurred more frequently – and on a larger scale – than previously known.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the money has done little to achieve the CIA's desired goals. Several American sources told the Times the cash “has fueled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington’s exit strategy from Afghanistan.”

Making the whole thing even more embarrassing for the CIA is the fact that the only other country known to have delivered cash to Karzai is Iran. When that campaign was uncovered in 2010, the U.S. was quick to condemn it, saying the country was bribing their way into influencing Afghan policy against the U.S. Of course, those officials didn't mention that the U.S was at that exact same time doing the exact same thing, and had been doing so for the past eight years.

Not that Iran's payments were any more successful that the U.S.'s.

Instead of securing his good graces, the payments may well illustrate the opposite: Mr. Karzai is seemingly unable to be bought.

Over Iran’s objections, he signed a strategic partnership deal with the United States last year, directly leading the Iranians to halt their payments, two senior Afghan officials said. Now, Mr. Karzai is seeking control over the Afghan militias raised by the C.I.A. 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 don't worry: in addition to being ineffective at garnering any sort of meaningful policy change, the CIA's cash has been used to fund to exact sort of people American troops were presumably fighting:

Like the Iranian cash, much of the C.I.A.’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.

As one American official put it in an interview with the Times: “The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan was the United States.”

[New York Times/Photo via AP]