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Afghan President Hamid Karzai acknowledged on Monday that for the past decade or more, his office has been receiving secret cash payments from the CIA, but that it's only small amounts used for "operational" purposes.
The Associated Press reports that during a news conference, Karzai, on an official visit to Helsinki, Finland, said the monthly payments were not a "big amount" and were used to give assistance to the sick and wounded, pay rent for housing and for other "operational" purposes.
The secret U.S. aid has been "very useful, and we are grateful for it," Karzai said.
The Afghan leader's remarks come in response to a New York Times report Sunday that on a monthly basis, "wads of American dollars packed into suitcases, backpacks and, on occasion, plastic shopping bags" were deposited at Karzai's offices.
The Times quoted former Afghan officials who said the regular off-the-books payments were known by Karzai officials as "ghost money."
The newspaper says that while the CIA had been known for years to support some relatives and close aides of Karzai:
" ... the new accounts of off-the-books cash delivered directly to his office show payments on a vaster scale, and with a far greater impact on everyday governing.
"Moreover, 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 CIA and State Department both declined to comment on the Times article.