CIA’s ‘Bags of Cash’ Fueled Afghan Corruption, Bought Little Influence

A Decade Later, CIA Still Throwing Money at Karzai

by Jason Ditz, April 28, 2013

If you’re a top Afghan official money comes awfully easy. For Afghan President Hamid Karzai, you don’t even have to ask for it or leave your office, and people will show up with plastic shopping bags full of cash for you.

The “sacks of cash” phenomenon was unveiled in 2010, when officials revealed that Iran was showing up with $1 million in cash a few times a year for Karzai. The US was and is doing it too. The CIA has notoriously been showing up all the time with “ghost money” aimed at buying influence.

“It came in secret, and it left in secret,” noted Karzai’s former chief of staff. Over a decade later, the cash is still coming and going, but what influence if any was ever actually bought is unclear at best.

Officials are critical of the policy, saying that tens of millions of US dollars with no paperwork were actually a big part of how Afghanistan became one of the most corrupt nations in human history. Though there is of course no way of tracking all this money, US officials believe that large amounts were used to bribe politicians and warlords.

This is how all political business gets done in Afghanistan to this day, and despite officials insisting that the money is incredibly counterproductive, the CIA bags are still showing up regularly.

Last 5 posts by Jason Ditz