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Karzai on funding from CIA: “…a reasonable scale, not at a massive one.”

April 30, 2013

By Tim Foxley

Summary: Bags of cash from the CIA to Karzai, although not demonstrative of good and stable governance merely illustrate an old practise in Afghanistan.  Many other actors will be buying influence in this way and not just with the central government part of Afghanistan…

Photos of Afghan maps 006Stories breaking about the secret (well, secret up to last week, it would appear) payments of cash being made by the CIA to Karzai and his government.  I am merely struggling to understand why people seem to be surprised by this.    You may recall a while back when the story broke in relation to Iran making payments to the Afghan government:

The Guardian, 25 October, 2010

Hamid Karzai has admitted that his chief of staff collects “bags of money”, containing hundreds of thousands of euros, from the Iranian government each year.

The Afghan president told a press conference that the cash was used to pay his office expenses and that he was happy to take large sums from Iran, Afghanistan‘s most important ally and the main regional enemy of the US.

“This is nothing hidden,” Karzai said. “We are grateful for Iranian help in this regard. The United States is doing the same thing. They’re providing cash to some of our offices.”

He said that once or twice a year Iran provided as much as €700,000 (£625,000) and that the money was handled by Umar Daudzai, the powerful chief of staff who is known for his anti-western views.

Not, it is not good, but this is the way it is done.  Hopkirk’s “The Great Game” noted the tendency of tribal leaders in the 19th century to sever the heads of colonial messengers moving from Indoa through to Kabul if their stipends (bribes to allow free passage) were cut back.  Boxloads of dollars were unloaded to warlords in 2001 to secure the fall of the Taliban.  It gets right to the heart of the “take a principled stance and not achieve anything, or make some messy compromises” debate.  Perhaps when Afghanistan has a competent and non-corrupt system, the money can be pushed in via more official means.

Political and cultural historian, Thomas Barfield, suggested that the successful Afghan rulers were the ones who were able to play off the international community and secure funds from all of them.

You can bet India, Russia, the Central Asian States, Pakistan and China are doing the same kind of thing, perhaps with slight variations.  And it won’t just be to Karzai – what about all the key regional, ethnic and political factions and leaders?  Everyone is pumping money into Afghanistan, with varying levels of conditionality attached.  Why should CIA be any different?

Oh – lets see what the Taliban spokesman has to say about this!

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