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Attempts for Influence in Afghanistan

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President Hamid Karzai confirmed a New York Times report that his National Security Council (NSC) had received ‘a reasonable scale’ of cash from the US spy agency – the CIA. The New York Times reported on April 28, 2013 that “tens of millions of dollars have flowed from the C.I.A. to the office of President Hamid Karzai.” “For more than a decade, wads of American dollars packed into suitcases, backpacks and, on occasion, plastic shopping bags have been dropped off every month or so at the offices of Afghanistan’s president,” the New York Times report said.

According to the Times there is no evidence if the funds, aimed at influencing Afghan Presidential Palace, were directly paid to the Afghan president Hamid Karzai. New York Times quoted Khalil Roman, Khalil Roman, who served as Mr. Karzai’s deputy chief of staff from 2002 until 2005, that “We called it ‘ghost money; it came in secret, and it left in secret.” It is not the first time that reports circulate about Karzai’s inner circle receiving cash from other countries in secret manner. On October 2010, the New York Times reported that Iran was directly paying cash to President Karzai’s office.

Obviously, the nature of the issue seems to be nasty, since the bribe-like cash are paid through secret channels, bypassing Afghan formal financial institutions. Assume that if the inner circle of the highest government officials receives unaccounted sums of cash from other countries, what should one expect from other institutions and government officials in the government. The Afghan government has been struggling to curb the flow of illegal money from abroad, particularly neighboring countries, to their proxy groups and individuals such as parties, media and political figures. But so far it has continued unabashed as in the past, when Afghan factions were directly funded by foreign players seeking their interests in Afghanistan.

The report supports the fact that the highest circles of power and authority in Afghanistan is vulnerable to the influence of foreign and neighboring countries. As this one, the previous report of the New York Times about Iran’s paying for Karzai’s office indicate that neighboring countries are sparing no effort to buy the loyalty of high-ranking officials in the government of Afghanistan. Previously, two senior officials of the Presidential office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs traded accusations of spying for other countries – Pakistan and the United States. Many believe that various organizations, media outlets and even MPs have been regularly receiving money from other countries.

If the attempts from abroad to influence inner circles and the top decision-makers in the government of Afghanistan are not blocked by the government, other agencies within the state may also be vulnerable to the influence of the world and neighboring countries. In addition to that, other entities and institutions such as political parties, the parliament and security agencies would also be exposed to easy influence of foreign countries. This would be indeed worrisome for the national interest of the country and the future of Afghanistan. Afghan leaders need to remain committed to their constitutional and moral obligations and safeguard the national interests of Afghanistan.

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