Corrupt Karzai Aide Is on CIA Payroll Official at center of corruption probe has fingers in many pies By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff Posted Aug 26, 2010 5:27 AM CDT Updated Aug 26, 2010 7:57 AM CDT 13 comments Comments Afghan president Hamid Karzai speaks with US senator John Kerry, not in the photo, during their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Kabul last week. (AP Photo//Yuri Cortez, Pool) (Newser) – The aide who Hamid Karzai intervened to free after his arrest on corruption charges has been on the CIA payroll for years, according to Afghan and US officials. It's not clear what exactly Mohammed Zia Salehi does to earn CIA cash, or whether the Afghan president knew he was an informant, but the episode highlights the difficulty—some say impossibility—of the Obama administration's plan to stamp out Afghan corruption, the New York Times notes. Salehi was arrested for trying to bribe US-backed investigators probing a company suspected of smuggling billions of dollars out of the country on behalf of insurgents and Afghan officials. Some US officials defend the practice of paying off corrupt government officials. "If we decide as a country that we’ll never deal with anyone in Afghanistan who might down the road—and certainly not at our behest—put his hand in the till, we can all come home right now,” an American official in Afghanistan says. “If you want intelligence in a war zone, you’re not going to get it from Mother Teresa or Mary Poppins."