The Guardian reports: The CIA and MI6 have regularly given large cash payments to Hamid Karzai’s office with the aim of maintaining access to the Afghan leader and his top allies and officials, but the attempt to buy influence has largely failed and may have backfired, former diplomats and policy analysts say.
The Guardian understands that the payments by British intelligence were on a smaller scale than the CIA’s handouts, reported in the New York Times to have been in the tens of millions, and much of the British money has gone towards attempts to finance peace initiatives, which have so far proved abortive.
That failure has raised questions among some British officials over whether eagerness to promote a political settlement may have been exploited by Afghan officials and self-styled intermediaries for the Taliban.
Responding to the allegations while on a visit to Helsinki on Monday, Karzai said his national security council (NSC) had received support from the US government for the past 10 years, and the amounts involved were “not big” and were used for a variety of purposes including helping those wounded in the conflict. “It’s multi-purpose assistance,” he said, without commenting on the allegations that the money was fuelling corruption.
Yama Torabi, the director of Integrity Watch Afghanistan said that the presidency’s low-key response to the reports had “outraged people”.
“As a result, we don’t know what was the amount of money that was given, what it was used for and if there was any corruption involved. Money when it is unchecked can be abused and this looks like one. In addition, it can be potentially used to corrupt politicians and political circles, but there is no way to know this unless there is a serious investigation into it,” Torabi told The Guardian.
Kabul sources told the Guardian that the key official involved in distributing the payments within the NSC was Ibrahim Spinzada, a close confidant of the president known as Engineer Ibrahim. There is, however, no evidence that Spinzada personally gained from the cash payments or that in distributing them among the president’s allies and sometimes his foes he was breaking Afghan law.
Officials say the payments, referred to in a New York Times report as “ghost money”, helped prop up warlords and corrupt officials, deepening Afghan popular mistrust of the Kabul government and its foreign backers, and thereby helped drive the insurgency.
The CIA money has sometimes caused divisions between the various branches of US government represented in Kabul, according to diplomats stationed in Kabul, particularly when it helped give the CIA chief of station in Kabul direct access to Karzai without the US ambassador’s knowledge or approval. [Continue reading…]