Afghanistan: An Endless Financial Sinkhole

As we noted in the news section yesterday, The New York Times reported this week on “bags of cash” that have been continually sent to Afghan President Hamid Karzai “courtesy of the CIA.”

Despite its unsurprising “revelations,” the story has received a lot of attention from Americans who are tired of fighting the lost war in Afghanistan and resentful that so many resources have gone to that sinkhole of a “nation-building” project.

In response to the report, Karzai admitted it matter-of-factly. An excerpt is featured in this Jake Tapper clip:

“…in a, eh, not big amount, no, small amount.” Well, I’ll take the description as relative, given that the Times reported, “All told, tens of millions of dollars have flowed from the C.I.A. to the office of President Hamid Karzai.”

This is a guy whose immense power over an entire country is totally illegitimate, having rose to the position in the aftermath of US-imposed regime change and military occupation and kept it by orchestrating fraudulent elections. The entire edifice of the Afghan government over which Karzai presides is sustained through a massive influx of US foreign aid – more than $16 billion since 2008 alone (not including the cost of conducting the war).

Under Karzai, Afghanistan has retained the title of being one of the most corrupt nations on the planet, and that is primarily in reference to the financial conduct of the government; never mind Karzai’s pettier preoccupations, like torturing prisoners and agreeing to pardon an imprisoned woman for the crime of being raped, on the one condition that she marry the man that raped her.

All this, and the CIA still sees fit to continue sending Karzai tens of millions of dollars in secret. Just as a reminder for those not as schooled in the art of pronouncing the utterly obvious, the CIA isn’t a corporation – they aren’t a business producing something in exchange for money. They have no money of their own. The wads of cash they’re regularly sending to people like Karzai come straight from the hard-earned paychecks of you and your neighbors.

As to Tapper’s question, Galbraith is correct that the payments have been a total waste. As the Times reported, “there is little evidence that the payments bought the influence the CIA sought. Instead, some American officials said, the cash has fueled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington’s exit strategy from Afghanistan.”

The fact that the war cannot be “won” plays into this endlessly-paying-billions-for-absolutely-nothing game Washington has been playing in Afghanistan. British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said in January that there is a “growing realization on both sides of” the conflict in Afghanistan “that neither side can win outright.”

The Taliban actually control entire parts of the country, where they “collect taxes, maintain law and order, and adjudicate disputes,” Dexter Filkins reported in the New Yorker in July. An Afghan told Filkins, the “country will be divided into twenty-five or thirty fiefdoms, each with its own government,” as soon as they Americans leave.

“We are probably headed for stalemate in 2014,” says Stephen Biddle, a George Washington University political science professor who has advised U.S. commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“If that is the case, the U.S. will have to pump billions of dollars a year into Afghanistan for decades to prevent its collapse,” the AP reported Biddle as saying.

32 thoughts on “Afghanistan: An Endless Financial Sinkhole”

  1. WHAT…. We expect to occupy AFGHANISTAN??? The graveyard of imperial hubris……. & the empire's which are lured here to try their hand at it's occupation. Fact: You can rent them but you can't own them. So, pay up and shut up! When you leave, they will count your money, as you tally your dead. There is 5000 years of such history…….

  2. Um mm….. one of the most corrupt nations on earth, tortures people, individuals within its government pick up bags of cash from a foreign corporation which isn't a corporation…
    There surely is no place like home.

  3. There is absolutely no justification for making war, killing thousands, buying politicians and rendering general mayhem upon Afghanistan. Afghanistan had no role in 9/11, our stated justification for making war. The Taliban offered on numerous occassions to extradite Osama bin Laden to US officials in Pakistan, but no one was listening. Further, I was advised that Osama was under house arrest by the Taliban who wished to constrain his fiery rhetoric from creating problems for Afghanistan as negotiations with the US was under way, Also, while in Kandahar in 1997, the Taliban Foreign Secretary said to me: "I think your country wishes war with Afghanistan." I think he was right!

  4. Lindsey Graham thinks another decade or so and thanks to our invasion and aid you won't be able to tell Afghanistan from Switzerland.

  5. "There is absolutely no justification for making war, killing thousands, buying politicians and rendering general mayhem upon Afghanistan."

    This is true, but the thing about US foreign policy is that there are unseen groups- arms merchants, government contractors, security firms, big banks, infrastructure firms, the intelligence agencies etc. that actually benefit from occupying and intervening in foreign countries. The policy in Afghanistan makes no sense except for those connected to the above entities who benefit immensely. The US is not there because of common sense- it is there to make a bunch of money for a tiny minority.

  6. NEW LAW

    Afghan society just like Empire USA, all of the wealth hoarded by the more intelligent upper half and poverty used as the main tool slavery.

    So, a new law, only the lower half of Afghan society receives from USA a penny, only those who do manual labor.

    Problem is, all of the CIA are of the upper half, so we would need to hire those of the American laboring-class to distribute the funds. A world first, but surely the only thing that will save our world.

  7. History records that "Afghanistan is the graveyard of soldiers and of empires"
    History also appears to record that the CIA runs drugs to finance its operations and that the CIA is totally INCOMPETENT.
    John Kennedy was going to "break up the CIA into 1000 pieces" – sadly – they had him assassinated instead.

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  11. It's a failed state and it's unclear of what to do their. The biggest threat to peace on Earth is Ukraine. If Putin is allowed to conquer Ukraine, you'll have the return of Soviet Union at it's worst. more armed conflicts and maybe even wars will follow as new Soviet Empire will "defend its interests" around the world as did before.

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