$75m American aid to Afghanistan blocked
WASHINGTON (PAN): A key US senator on Monday announced he was putting a hold on $75 million American aid to Afghanistan until President Barack Obama offered a rationale to the alleged CIA cash payments to his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai.
Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, announced Monday that he was putting a hold on the aid until the White House offered “sufficient assurances” that the bags of cash being delivered to Karzai by the CIA were not fueling the corruption that pervades the Afghan government.
The cash is known at the Presidential Palace in Kabul as “ghost money.” The agency has delivered tens of millions of dollars in secret cash payments to Karzai’s office over the years, according to Afghan and American officials.
The $75 million being withheld was intended to help Afghanistan organize elections, including a presidential vote scheduled for April.
The White House has so far refused to discuss the CIA payments. On Monday, Caitlin Hayden, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said the White House had been in close touch with Corker’s staff since he first demanded an explanation of the payments in early May.
The CIA payments have faced sharp criticism from many Afghan, American and European officials since they were first reported by The New York Times in April — and after Karzai’s confirmation that the payments continued.
Corker, Ranking Member of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced his hold on the part of the funding after he said, Obama did not respond to his three letters written to him in this regard.
“The administration’s lack of any response to these requests, its apparent decision to flout the Foreign Relations Committee’s oversight, and its inability (or unwillingness) to explain such a policy is unacceptable,” Corker said.
“As a consequence, I have determined that the further commitment of taxpayer funds at this time toward such an incoherent governance strategy would not be in our national interest, and I am placing a formal hold on Congressional Notification 65, relating to USAID programs in Afghanistan. Specifically, the hold pertains to $75 million intended for electoral programs in Afghanistan,” wrote Corker in his letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.
“This hold will remain in place until such time as I receive sufficient information on these matters and sufficient assurances that there is a process in place to ensure our policy towards governance in Afghanistan is coherent and supports our national interests,” the Senator said.
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