While some American officials complain about corruption in Afghanistan, the CIA has been smoothing its relationship with President Hamid Karzai's government by dropping off suitcases, backpacks, and even plastic bags full of cash at his office every month, the New York Times finds. The payments—described as "ghost money" by the leader's former chief of staff—have added up to tens of millions of dollars over more than a decade.
The payments allegedly go toward paying off Afghan lawmakers and assorted warlords, one of whom is believed to receive up to $100,000 a month. Karzai also gets bags of cash from the Iranians, and analysts say the US money is likely serving only to fuel corruption. In the wake of the Times report, Karzai today acknowledged receiving a "small amount" of cash, and even thanked the US for it, saying it was used for "various purposes." House Rep. Jason Chaffetz, whose subcommittee is investigating Afghan corruption, was taken aback. "We’ve all suspected it," he said. "But for President Karzai to admit it out loud brings us into a bizarro world."