- Jan 17, 2010
Millions in CIA 'Ghost Money' Paid to Afghanistan's Karzai, NYT Reports
KABUL — Tens of millions of dollars were delivered by the CIA in suitcases, backpacks, and plastic shopping bags to the office of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai for more than a decade, the New York Times says, citing current and former advisers to the Afghan leader.
The so-called "ghost money" was meant to buy influence for the CIA but instead fueled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington's exit strategy from Afghanistan, the newspaper quoted U.S. officials as saying.
"The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan," one American official said, "was the United States."
The CIA declined to comment on the report and the State Department did not immediately comment. The New York Times did not publish any comment from Karzai or his office.
"We called it 'ghost money'," Khalil Roman, who served as Karzai's chief of staff from 2002 until 2005, told the New York Times. "It came in secret and it left in secret."
There was no evidence that Karzai personally received any of the money, Afghan officials told the newspaper. The cash was handled by his National Security Council, it added.
In response to the report, Karzai told reporters in Helsinki after a meeting with Finnish leaders that the office of the National Security Council had been receiving support from the U.S. government for the past 10 years. He said the amounts had been "not big" and the funds were used for various purposes including assistance for the wounded.