Afghan president Hamid Karzai has a sugar daddy, and its name is the Central Intelligence Agency. Or at least it had a sugar daddy. For over ten years, American spies greased Karzai's palms about once a month with suitcases, backpacks and even plastic grocery bags full of cash. And not those relatively worthless Afghanis either. According to a New York Times investigation, the CIA delivered tens of millions of dollars in cash right to Karzai's office. "We called it 'ghost money,' " Khalil Roman, Karzai's former chief of staff, told The Times. "It came in secret, and it left in secret."
This is nuts. It's absolutely bonkers. This is the sort of thing you'd expect to see in some Clive Owen movie about Americ's distopic future when we're ruled by mobsters with eye patches or something. Or at the very least, it's something that read about happening in a corrupt Central African dictatorship. In fact, a similar thing happened just a few days ago in Uganda where the president thought it would be a good idea to distribute a photo of him handing a giant bag of cash to some voters to show how generous he was. Bad idea, because handing out big bags of trash typically a sign of rampant corruption. (Well behaved people just write checks.)
Evidently, that's exactly what's happening in Afghanistan. "The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan was the United States," an America official said to The Times. To give you a sense of the scale of corruption, the only other country found to be delivering bags of cash to Karzai was none other than Iran. And what do we get for all that bread? Officials on both sides say that "the agency.s main goal in providing the cash has been to maintain access to Mr. Karzai and his inner circle and to guarantee the agency's influence at the presidential palace, which wields tremendous power in Afghanistan's highly centralized government."
Can you believe that? We have to sneak tens of millions of dollars into the palace just so we can talk to the president? What the heck is the CIA thinking? And for that matter, what the heck is Afghanistan thinking? It's not like we just stormed into their country and started a war or anything. Oh wait yes we did.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.