Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday he's been assured by the CIA's Kabul station chief that regular cash payments to his government will continue after a New York Times exposé created a scandal in his country and the United States.
“The help and assistance from the U.S. is for our National Directorate of Security. That is state-to-state, government-to-government regular assistance,” Karzai said, according to the AP. “So that is a government institution helping another government institution, and we appreciate all this assistance and help, all this assistance is very useful for us. We have spent it in different areas (and) solved lots of our problems.”
The New York Times first brought the payments to light last weekend. The newspaper estimated that the cash transfers, which were brought in plastic bags and suitcases and referred to as “ghost money” by Karzai aides, totaled tens of millions of dollars since the U.S. invasion of 2001.
The report created a firestorm of controversy in Afghanistan, with opposition lawmakers calling Karzai a traitor for accepting money from a foreign government without any accountability.
"These payments highlight President Karzai's lack of loyalty," Sayed Fazel Sancharaki, a spokesman for the opposition National Coalition, told the Agence France-Presse. "It's very unfortunate that such money is given in a non-transparent way and by foreign intelligence agencies."
U.S. lawmakers, for their part, demanded an explanation, saying such opaque payments “promote corruption.”
“Our support for the Karzai administration should have evolved long ago into regular and more sustainable efforts that are fully coordinated across the government and are calibrated to ensure collaboration with U.S. policies,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote in a letter to President Obama on Thursday. “The alleged arrangements make accountability impossible and promote corruption at the top levels of the Afghan government, as well as break trust with the American taxpayer.
“Please provide an explanation, with a classified annex if necessary, for how this alleged policy fits within overall U.S. objectives in Afghanistan.”