2010 ransom transaction between terror group and Afghan government used cash that came from monthly US donations, NY Times investigation finds.
About $1 million of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s money, given to a secret Afghan government fund in 2010, ended up in al Qaeda’s possession after it was used to pay part of a ransom for a diplomat kidnapped by the terror group, the New York Times reported on Saturday.
The CIA regularly bankrolled that coffer with monthly cash deliveries to the presidential palace in Kabul, as it has done for more than a decade. Along with another $4 million total provided by several other countries, the Afghan government paid off a $5 million ransom demanded by al Qaeda in exchange for freeing Afghan general consul Abdul Khaliq Farahi, kidnapped in Pakistan in 2008.
As a previous Times investigation revealed in 2013, the CIA provided monthly cash deliveries to support then-President Hamid Karzai’s relatives and aides and to solicit influence over domestic politics—but just as often, it “fueled corruption and empowered warlords.”
Letters regarding the payment were found in the 2011 Navy SEAL raid which killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. They were submitted as evidence during the trial of Abid Naseer, who was convicted this month of supporting terrorism and planning to bomb a shopping center in Manchester, England.
According to those communications, al Qaeda planned to use the money to buy weapons, support family members of the group’s fighters being held in Afghanistan, and other operational needs.
The cash flow was “no well-laid trap,” the Times writes. It was just another example of how the U.S. regularly “financed the very militants it is fighting.”
The CIA’s monthly deliveries to Karzai’s palace, which ranged in amounts from hundreds of thousands of dollars to more than $1 million, were also used to finance “the loyalty of warlords, legislators and other prominent — and potentially troublesome — Afghans, helping the palace finance a vast patronage network that secured Mr. Karzai’s power base,” the Times continued.
While the cash flow has allegedly slowed since President Ashraf Ghani took office in September, it has not stopped. And Afghan officials did not elaborate on what restrictions, if any, the U.S. has put on how it may be spent.
The CIA declined to comment to the Times on their story.