US senator puts hold on some Afghan aid over Karzai ‘ghost money’

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said yesterday he is holding up millions of dollars in US aid to Afghanistan until President Barack Obama’s administration explains the rationale behind more than a decade of cash payments to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Senator Bob Corker, the senior Republican on the committee, said he put a hold on $75 million intended for electoral programmes in Afghanistan after Obama’s administration failed to respond to his letters on May 2, May 14 and June 13 about the payments.

The New York Times reported in April that the CIA delivered tens of millions of dollars in “ghost money” – cash intended to buy influence – to Karzai’s office in suitcases, backpacks and plastic shopping bags.

The money was meant to buy influence for the CIA, but instead fuelled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington’s exit strategy from Afghanistan, the newspaper quoted US officials as saying.

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