Afghan President Hamid Karzai has admitted that his office has received payments from the US government over the past 10 years. He said the funds were used for "operational and health purposes."
"Yes, the office of the national security adviser has been receiving support from the US government in the last 10 years, not on a large scale, but on a small scale," Karzai was quoted as saying in a statement issued by his office. He made the remarks in Helsinki, Finland, where he was on an official visit.
His remark came after The New York Times reported Monday that millions of dollars in cash was paid by the Central Intelligence Agency to Karzai's office for over a decade, citing US and Afghan officials.
Karzai said that the cash was given for "operational and health purposes" and "to pay rent for the houses." However, he did not disclose any sums. "The aid was very useful and we are thankful," he said.
The Times reported that the CIA had given the Afghan National Security Council tens of millions of dollars in monthly payments delivered in suitcases, backpacks and plastic bags.
The newspaper quoted Karzai's deputy chief of staff from 2002 to 2006, Khalil Roman, as calling the CIA payments "ghost money" that "came in secret, and it left in secret."
It also quoted unidentified American officials as saying that "the cash has fueled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington's exit strategy from Afghanistan."
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to comment on the report as did the CIA.
hc/kms (AP, AFP, dpa)