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Pressures Growing on Karzai over CIA Payments

Afghanistan Parliment

Pressures on President Karzai is growing as politicians and lawmakers in the National Assembly urge the president to explain the “ghost money” which the New York Times said was paid to his office by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Echoing the senators’ call, some Wolesi Jirga lawmakers on Wednesday asked President Karzai to share the information regarding the payments with the parliament. The New York Times reported on April 28 that “tens of millions of dollars have flowed from the C.I.A. to the office of President Hamid Karzai.” In response to questions about the report, President Karzai confirmed the New York Times report and said the aid was ‘a reasonable scale’ of cash from the CIA.

Many analysts believe that the back-channel CIA funding for President Karzai’s office have significantly contributed to rampant corruption in Afghanistan. The secret payments by the CIA had been made in an attempt to buy and access and influence for the CIA in the inner circle of power in the government of Afghanistan. It is believed that the money was distributed to warlords and strongmen in the country to buy loyalty for the central government and the President. Therefore, the CIA cash helped Karzai to build a patronage network in Afghan politics, which helped him solidify his power and influence in the country.

In the past decade, the Afghan government made itself committed to fighting corruption. But the international community, particularly the United States, complained about Karzai’s conduct of fighting corruption. At Tokyo conference, the US and other donor countries pledged to provide conditional financial assistance to the government of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign troops in 2014. But the bribe-style CIA funding for the office of President Karzai showed the complexity of the fight against corruption. The White House and US State Department kept pressurizing the administration of President Karzai to fight the corruption. But, now many argue that the US has been a promoter of corruption in Afghanistan.

Illegal secret funding for the office of President Karzai or any other institutions in the country would, on one hand, promote the rampant corruption and, on the other hand, it would endanger national interests of Afghanistan. The reasons is that there is no clear line between corruption and what is not considered as corruption. This would also promote a culture of immunity and encourage other actors in the government of Afghanistan to have a share of the corrupting. Because of this notion, corruption has infiltrated even in the institutions that once considered as corruption-free. Now, Afghanistan’s parliament is understood to be deeply involved in corruption. This has discredited the so-called ‘house of the nation’.

Paying cash through secret channels, is bypassing Afghan formal financial institutions. This is directly contradicting the efforts made by the government of Afghanistan to persuade the international community for channeling their aid through the government of 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. Therefore, accountability is the only option for promoting better governance and preserving the national interests of the country.


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