Millions of dollars in “ghost money” was reportedly sent from the CIA to the office of Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the past decade, according to current and former advisers to the Afghan leader.
The money was meant to buy influence for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Instead, it was used to fuel corruption and empower warlords.
Ultimately, the money from the CIA has undermined Washington, D.C.’s exit from Afghanistan. One American official, cited in a report by The New York Times, explained, “The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan was the United States.”
Khalil Roman, who served as Karzai’s chief of staff from 2002 until 2005, stated, “We called it ‘ghost money.’ It came in secret and it left in secret.” The money from the CIA to Karzai’s office was dropped off every month or so at the president’s office.
The cash payments are not unusual for the CIA. Rather, they have been standard procedure in the Middle Eastern nation since the war started in 2001. Afghan officials added that there was no evidence Karzai personally received the money. Instead, it appeared that the cash was all handled by his National Security Council.
US and Afghan officials both agreed that the cash was meant to maintain access to Karzai and his inner circle. It was also a way that the CIA could be guaranteed influence at the presidential palace. Instead, the majority of the CIA’s ghost money was sent to warlords and politician, many of which had or have ties to the drug trade. Some even had ties with the Taliban.
Essentially, the CIA indirectly supported the same patronage networks that US diplomats and law enforcement agents have worked to dismantle. Karzai admitted to the CIA ghost money in 2010 when he also received bags of cash from Iran. However, the money from Iran was a transparent form of air meant to cover expenses at the presidential palace.
Like with the CIA’s ghost money, Iran’s cash was also handed over to warlords and politicians. There is little evidence that the money from the CIA bought the influence it was intended to. Instead, the cash appears to have done the opposite, proving that the Afghan president cannot be bought. Along with Karzai, a number of senior officials on the Afghan National Security Council appear to be on the agency’s payroll.
Are you surprised to hear that the CIA has sent millions of dollars in ghost money to the Afghanistan president’s office?
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