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Tens of millions of U.S. dollars in cash were delivered by the CIA in suitcases, backpacks and plastic shopping bags to the office of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai for more than a decade, according to the New York Times, citing current and former advisers to the Afghan leader.
The so-called "ghost money" was meant to buy influence for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) but instead fuelled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington's exit strategy from Afghanistan, the newspaper quoted U.S. officials as saying.
"The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan," one American official said, "was the United States."
The CIA declined to comment on the report and the U.S. State Department did not immediately comment. The New York Times did not publish any comment from Karzai or his office.
"We called it 'ghost money'," Khalil Roman, who served as Karzai's chief of staff from 2002 until 2005, told the New York Times. "It came in secret and it left in secret."
For more than a decade the cash was dropped off every month or so at the Afghan president's office, the newspaper said.
Handing out cash has been standard procedure for the CIA in Afghanistan since the start of the war.
Afghanistan to face new challenges soon - Russian Deputy Foreign Minister
Afghanistan will face new challenges in the short term, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov said.
"Regarding the situation in Afghanistan amid the degrading military and political situation and presidential election coming in April 2014, it is absolutely obvious to us that new challenges will emerge in the short term," Morgulov said at the third ministerial conference of the Istanbul Process on Regional Security and Cooperation for a Secure and Stable Afghanistan held in Almaty.
"Unfortunately, we are to conclude that the process of national reconciliation in the country is virtually hanging around," the Russian deputy minister said.
The tension will grow in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of coalition forces from the country and could become a threat to Afghani neighbors in the region, Morgulov said. "In the context of the so-called 2014 factor, escalation of tension in northern provinces of Afghanistan with a possible expansion to Central Asia is posing a threat to my country and Russia's allies," the Russian deputy foreign minister added.