GOP senator demands answers for CIA ‘ghost money’ to Afghanistan

The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is demanding an explanation for the CIA's decade-long effort to funnel cash to Afghan leaders, including President Hamid Karzai.

The reported millions in so-called "ghost money" — delivered and accepted in secret as part of a deal between the CIA and Kabul — undermined efforts by Washington to root out rampant corruption and fraud within the Karzai administration, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Thursday. 

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"The alleged [CIA] arrangements make accountability impossible and promote corruption at the top levels of the Afghan government, as well as break trust with the American taxpayer," Corker wrote in a letter to President Obama. 

Reports of the cash payments — sent clandestinely to Afghan officials via suitcases, backpacks and shopping bags — "if accurate, indicate an incoherent U.S. policy toward Afghanistan," Corker wrote. 

The Tennessee Republican is requesting a formal explanation of the classified program and "how this alleged policy fits within overall U.S. objectives in Afghanistan." 

On Monday, Karzai declined to specify how much CIA officials had handed over to his administration since 2003, according to recent reports. 

However, he did note the CIA payouts — which began shortly after the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan — have aided Kabul by paying for "operational" costs associated with building up the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). 

White House spokesman Jay Carney and CIA officials declined to comment about the funding program earlier this week. 

Last April, Karzai demanded the United States guarantee that his country will receive at least $1 billion in annual security funds as part of a U.S.-NATO postwar deal. 

Gen. John Allen, then commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, told Congress a month earlier that Afghan forces will need between $4 billion and $5 billion annually to maintain operations against the Taliban and insurgent forces.

At the time, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Karzai was “reaching beyond what is realistic” in asking that the United States guarantee any financial support for security after the war.