I figured someone in the daylight crew would’ve posted this already, because, well…
Karzai Says He Was Assured C.I.A. Would Continue Delivering Bags of Cash
KABUL, Afghanistan — The C.I.A.’s station chief here met with President Hamid Karzai on Saturday, and the Afghan leader said he had been assured that the agency would continue dropping off stacks of cash at his office despite a storm of criticism that has erupted since the payments were disclosed.
The C.I.A. money, Mr. Karzai told reporters, was “an easy source of petty cash,” and some of it was used to pay off members of the political elite, a group dominated by warlords.
The use of the C.I.A. cash for payoffs has prompted criticism from many Afghans and some American and European officials, who complain that the agency, in its quest to maintain access and influence at the presidential palace, financed what is essentially a presidential slush fund. The practice, the officials say, effectively undercut a pillar of the American war strategy: the building of a clean and credible Afghan government to wean popular support from the Taliban.
Instead, corruption at the highest levels seems to have only worsened. The International Monetary Fund recently warned diplomats in Kabul that the Afghan government faced a potentially severe budget shortfall partly because of the increasing theft of customs duties and officially abetted tax evasion.
On Saturday, Mr. Karzai sought to dampen the furor over the payments, describing them as one facet of the billions of dollars in aid Afghanistan receives each year. “This is nothing unusual,” he said…
Which reminded me that I’d bookmarked, but never posted, a related article at the end of April:
KABUL, Afghanistan — It is always hard to gauge what diplomats really think unless one of their cables ends up on WikiLeaks, but every once in a while, the barriers fall and a bit of truth slips into public view…
…[O]ne of those rare truth-telling moments came at a farewell cocktail party last week hosted by the departing French ambassador to Kabul: Bernard Bajolet, who is leaving to head France’s Direction Génerale de la Sécurité Extérieure, its foreign intelligence service.
After the white-coated staff passed the third round of hors d’oeuvres, Mr. Bajolet took the lectern and laid out a picture of how France — a country plagued by a slow economy, waning public support for the Afghan endeavor and demands from other foreign conflicts, including Syria and North Africa — looked at Afghanistan….
That the Afghan project is on thin ice and that, collectively, the West was responsible for a chunk of what went wrong, though much of the rest the Afghans were responsible for. That the West had done a good job of fighting terrorism, but that most of that was done on Pakistani soil, not on the Afghan side of the border. And that without fundamental changes in how Afghanistan did business, the Afghan government, and by extension the West’s investment in it, would come to little.
His tone was neither shrill nor reproachful. It was matter-of-fact.
“I still cannot understand how we, the international community, and the Afghan government have managed to arrive at a situation in which everything is coming together in 2014 — elections, new president, economic transition, military transition and all this — whereas the negotiations for the peace process have not really started,” Mr. Bajolet said in his opening comments…
“We should be lucid: a country that depends almost entirely on the international community for the salaries of its soldiers and policemen, for most of its investments and partly on it for its current civil expenditure, cannot be really independent.”
I do not pretend to understand what these trends might portend in the larger world, but one thing’s pretty clear: the Very Serious Persons responsible for publishing the NYTimes are beyond bored with the whole “Afghanistan (Graveyard of Empires) Adventure”. As far as they’re concerned, it’s time to cut our losses and move the Risk markers to a new, less predictable failure arena. Syria? Iran? North Korea? Who cares, as long as it’s novel!