CIA bribery of Afghan officials – investment or unethical?


From The New York Times comes news that the CIA has been paying off high-ranking Afghanistan officials since 2001:

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 Afghanistan’s president — courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency.

All told, tens of millions of dollars have flowed from the C.I.A. to the office of President Hamid Karzai, according to current and former advisers to the Afghan leader.

“We called it ‘ghost money,’ ” said Khalil Roman, who served as Mr. Karzai’s deputy chief of staff from 2002 until 2005. “It came in secret, and it left in secret.”

The C.I.A., which declined to comment for this article, has long been known to support some relatives and close aides of Mr. Karzai. But the new accounts of off-the-books cash delivered directly to his office show payments on a vaster scale, and with a far greater impact on everyday governing.

Moreover, there is little evidence that the payments bought the influence the C.I.A. sought. Instead, some American officials said, the cash has fueled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington’s exit strategy from Afghanistan.

“The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan,” one American official said, “was the United States.”

We had competition with our bribes, for a few years:

The United States was not alone in delivering cash to the president. Mr. Karzai acknowledged a few years ago that Iran regularly gave bags of cash to one of his top aides.

At the time, in 2010, American officials jumped on the payments as evidence of an aggressive Iranian campaign to buy influence and poison Afghanistan’s relations with the United States. What they did not say was that the C.I.A. was also plying the presidential palace with cash — and unlike the Iranians, it still is.

On the one hand, millions of dollars in bribes is not a lot of money compared to the billions spent in Afghanistan on military actions, nor the tens of billions officially spent on foreign aid to all nations. Furthermore, some level of what could be called “bribery” was used by General Petraeous in Iraq to stabilize operations.

On the other hand, U.S. taxpayer dollars are helping fund an extremely corrupt national government, one that remains not all that positively disposed towards America. But if we eliminate that money, would it cause the Karzai government to further impede our efforts there? This is certainly not the only government the CIA is plying with cash – and while the CIA might say non-experts should butt out, the real issue here is the secretive expenditures, with the American people having little recourse to approve or disapprove through their informed elected officials. With Karzai’s office claims the money was used for virtuous purposes, such as helping the sick, but without transparency, it is unknown as to whether Karzai’s office is telling the truth, or if the aforementioned former Deputy Chief of Staff is.

Foreign policy is not a major focus of the Tea Party, but it’s hard to make the case that secret bags of money and fiscal responsibility are compatible. Taxpayer money should be accounted for, especially when it’s being used to bribe a government or indirectly fund terrorist activities through welfare payments.