Afghanistan: CIA “Ghost Money” Fueled Corruption

Published: 30 April 2013


Hollywood-style cash-only deliveries to the offices of Afghan President Hamid Karzai were normal occurrences for more than a decade, the New York Times reported on Sunday. Footing the bill? The US Central Intelligence Agency. 

The CIA delivered tens of millions, former Afghan officials told the New York Times, in “suitcases, backpacks, and, sometimes in plastic shopping bags. ”  The cash was meant to maintain access to Karzai and his top officials. But the payments do not seem to be bearing the results the US must have hoped for. Instead of a pliable Afghan President, the US has found an increasingly independent diplomat. Despite this, the CIA has continued to pay, believing the access and influence outweighs the risks, the New York Times reported.

Officials told the New York Times that much of the CIA money has been used to pay off warlords, politicians, and other individuals attached to organized crime, to ensure continued loyalty in the fight against Taliban-led insurgency. The individuals to whom money was eventually distributed included those involved in Afghanistan’s lucrative drug trade.

The CIA is aware of where the money has ended up, officials told the New York Times, but ultimately believes having Karzai’s ear is more than worth the downside. The CIA “will work with criminals if they think they have to,” the source said. As one US official told the New York Times, “The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan was the United States.”