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Karzai: CIA promises to continue cash payments

By Qadir Sediqi and Chelsea J. Carter, CNN
May 6, 2013 -- Updated 0939 GMT (1739 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • President Hamid Karzai said he met with the CIA station chief in Kabul
  • Karzai says the CIA has been delivering cash to his office for 10 years
  • He says he was assured by the CIA that aid will continue

(CNN) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he has received assurances from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's station chief in Kabul that it will continue delivering cash, as it has for the past decade, to his offices.

"Yes, we received cash from the CIA for the past 10 years. It was very useful, and we are very thankful for this aid," the president said during a news conference Saturday in Kabul.

"Yesterday, I thanked the CIA's chief in Kabul and I requested their continued help, and they promised that they will continue. "

Karzai's comments follow last week's report by The New York Times that the CIA has been dropping off shopping bags full of money every month or so for more than a decade to the offices of the Afghan president.

"This is not unusual," he told reporters, adding that the money was spent by his office and the national security office for a variety of purposes, including paying salaries, helping the war wounded and providing scholarships.

Karzai dismissed questions about why such money, not in state coffers, was needed for what he described as government expenses.

"This is the choice of the American government," he said.

Karzai's statements on Saturday appeared to be meant to mollify a growing outcry over the revelation of the CIA payments, which has raised questions about whether the money undercut efforts to quell corruption in Afghanistan.

The United States has previously criticized what officials have described as rampant corruption within the Afghan government.

Nearly three years ago, reports surfaced that the CIA was making payments to a number of Karzai's family members, even as his key adviser and a number of ministers were being investigated for corruption.

In the latest allegation of CIA payments in Afghanistan, the New York Times, which cited unnamed U.S., European and Afghan officials, reported that the cash payments ranged from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. It said the payments were used from everything from payoffs for lawmakers and warlord to paying for "informal negotiations." The report did not say how much money had been provided to Karzai's office.

As a matter of routine, the CIA does not comment on its operations. The agency did not return a call from CNN seeking comment.

Karzai also disputed claims that his office received cash from MI6, the British intelligence agency.

He acknowledged MI6 gave money to other organizations in Afghanistan, but he did not identify them.

Qadir Sediqi reported from Kabul, Afghanistan; Chelsea J. Carter reported and wrote from Atlanta.

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