Over 2,000 American troops have given their lives in the war in Afghanistan. Countless Afghan civilians are dead. Thousands more Americans and Afghans have been wounded.
Remember that when reading the New York Times report on the CIA's paying tens of millions of off-the-books cash to Afghanistan President Karzai.
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"Operation Enduring Freedom" is more like Operation Enduring Bribery.
This is far from the first time the CIA has secretly funded a foreign government or ethically-questionable foreign military operations (see Operation Cyclone, Nicaragua, etc), but that does not make it any less offensive when we consider the fraud, waste, abuse, and dangers of the CIA making secret payoffs to prop up unstable regimes abroad without a shred of accountability.
The cash does not appear to be subject to the oversight and restrictions placed on official American aid to the country or even the C.I.A.’s formal assistance programs, like financing Afghan intelligence agencies.Worse, the Times reports that the payments haven't even worked:
It is not clear that the United States is getting what it pays for. Mr. Karzai’s willingness to defy the United States — and the Iranians, for that matter — on an array of issues seems to have only grown as the cash has piled up. Instead of securing his good graces, the payments may well illustrate the opposite: Mr. Karzai is seemingly unable to be bought.
Usually anonymous officials are quick to defend the CIA's covert actions in the press (see drone warfare), but this time the CIA declined to comment. Perhaps that's because there is no good explanation for paying millions of taxpayer dollars to appease warlords like Abdul Rashid Dostum, "an ethnic Uzbek whose militia served as a C.I.A. proxy force in 2001. He receives nearly $100,000 a month from the palace." Dostum set in motion the events that led to the first Afghanistan casualty, CIA officer Johnny Michael Spann, and the shooting and capture of so-called "American Taliban John Walker Lindh. Lindh's case gave us the first glimpse of the CIA's torture program. The CIA's torture program has come and gone, with one person in prison - the whistleblower who never tortured anyone. Several thousand American and coalition soldiers dead or wounded, even thousands more Afghan civilians, and the CIA is busy delivering bags of cash.
Much of it also still goes to keeping old warlords in line.In his efforts to make a graceful exit to the decade-long war, President Obama said
. . . At the end of this conflict, we are going to be able to say that the sacrifices that were made by those men and women in uniform has brought about the goal that we sought.But the CIA's secret pay-offs are sometimes at odds with other US efforts, as illustrated by the CIA cash handlers,
. . . a small clique at the National Security Council, including its administrative chief, Mohammed Zia Salehi . . .(emphasis added).
Mr. Salehi, though, is better known for being arrested in 2010 in connection with a sprawling, American-led investigation that tied together Afghan cash smuggling, Taliban finances and the opium trade. Mr. Karzai had him released within hours, and the C.I.A. then helped persuade the Obama administration to back off its anticorruption push, American officials said.
After his release, Mr. Salehi jokingly came up with a motto that succinctly summed up America’s conflicting priorities. He was, he began telling colleagues, “an enemy of the F.B.I., and a hero to the C.I.A.”
The CIA's covert under-the-table and apparently ineffective dealings undermine the sacrifices of the men and women fighting overtly.