Senators seek explanation on CIA payments
KABUL (PAN): Some senators on Tuesday asked President Hamid Karzai to take the parliament and the nation into confidence on the “ghost money” the CIA allegedly handed out to his office over the past decade.
On Monday, the New York Times reported CIA delivered tens of millions of dollars to the president’s office -- a costly influence-peddling attempt that led to massive corruption in Afghanistan.
“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 the president,” the NYT said.
Meant to buy influence for the CIA, the payments instead fuelled corruption and gave warlords a boost, the paper quoted unnamed US officials as saying. As a result, the US drawdown strategy had been weakened, the newspaper claimed.
Currently on a three-nation tour of Europe, Karzai acknowledged on Monday the US had provided modest sums in cash support to Afghanistan’s National Security Council.
He told reporters in Helsinki: “Yes, the NSC has received financial assistance from the US over the past decade, but at a reasonable scale, not at a massive one.”
He said the assistance was utilised for different purposes, including the treatment of sick officials, house rent and other operational objectives. The president thanked the US for the aid that had been useful for his administration.
But a public representative from Daikundi province, Ali Akbar Jamshedi, called receipt of payments from foreign spy networks an illegal act. The parliament should have complete information about payments from all foreign sources.
He said the government should have informed the parliament about such payments, asking Karzai to brief lawmakers in this regard.
Senator Leiluma Ahmadi from central Panjsher province believed Karzai should inform the people and their representatives about the money. She asked the government to name the recipients and beneficiaries.
"Accepting such money is a big insult to Afghanistan. All those who accepted the cash payments have betrayed the nation," remarked Hidayatullah Rihaee, an MP from central Bamyan province.
Similar views were expressed by Bismillah Afghanmal, a lawmaker from southern Kandahar province.
At the end of the session, Chairman Fazal Hadi Muslimyar said not only the Presidential Palace, but many individuals and groups had received money from foreign countries on different pretexts. However, he did not elaborate.
Muslimyar noted the issue had surfaced amid ongoing talks between Afghanistan and the US on a bilateral security agreement. He believed the sums were aimed at speeding up the signing of the pact.
He thought the US and other countries raised such issues to divert people's attention from the real problems facing the country. However, he asked the house members not to take the issue seriously because most of the country's development budget came in the form of foreign aid.
"Where our salaries come from; they come from donor countries," observed the chairman, saying it was the president's responsibility to tell the nation about the payments.
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