A 2010 ransom payment by Afghan officials to al Qaeda shows just how dirty US cash can get when given to corrupt governments.
Mathew Rosenberg of The New York Times reports that about $US1 million provided by the CIA to a secret Afghan government fund ended up in the hands of al Qaeda in 2010 when it was used to pay a ransom for an Afghan diplomat.
The reporting is based on letters found after the 2011 Navy SEAL raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden thought the CIA cash was too good to be true: He feared the CIA knew about the money and had tainted it with poison, radiation or a tracking device, the Times reported, and suggested it be converted to another currency.
The Times notes that the incident “was just another in a long list of examples of how the United States, largely because of poor oversight and loose financial controls, has sometimes inadvertently financed the very militants it is fighting.”
An al Qaeda official wrote bin Laden that the ransom money would be used for weapons, operational needs and payments to families of al Qaeda fighters held in Afghanistan.
The letters found in the bin Laden raid were submitted as evidence in the trial of Abid Naseer, who was convicted this month in New York of supporting terrorism and plotting to bomb a shopping center in Manchester, England.
The Times said Abdul Khaliq Farahi was the Afghan consul general in Peshawar, Pakistan, when he was kidnapped in 2008 and handed over to al Qaeda. He was released two years later after Afghanistan paid al Qaeda $US5 million, a fifth of which was CIA money that came from an Afghan government fund that received monthly cash deliveries from the agency, the Times said.
The Times said the cash the CIA delivered to the Afghan presidential palace under President Hamid Karzai was used to buy the support of warlords, legislators and others, as well as expenses for clandestine diplomatic trips and housing for senior officials. Afghan officials told the newspaper the payments have slowed since Ashraf Ghani became president in September.
Corruption is endemic in Afghanistan.
About $US4.5 billion was taken out of Afghanistan in 2011, according to estimates by The Congressional Research Service. In 2012, Time reported that the cash was taken “to places like Dubai, where many of the ruling Afghan elite have bank accounts and there is a significant amount of bank secrecy.”
Afghan officials told the Times that US cash was still coming in today.
“It’s cash,” a former Afghan security official reportedly said. “Once it’s at the palace, they can’t do a thing about how it gets spent.”
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