Sen. Corker Puts Hold on Aid to Afghanistan

Tuesday, 18 Jun 2013 10:21 AM

By Courtney Coren

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Sen. Bob Corker says he has put a hold on the monthly bags of cash the CIA has been delivering to Afghan President Hamid Karzai until the White House offers an explanation for the secret practice, The New York Times reports.

Corker, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, announced Monday in a letter there would be a hold on the $75 million in assistance to Afghanistan until the Obama administration gives "sufficient assurances" the cash is not being used to fuel corruption in the Afghan government.

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"I have repeatedly requested briefings and additional information on the nature and effect of this policy, classified and unclassified, as appropriate. The administration's lack of any response to these requests, its apparent decision to flout the Foreign Relations Committee's oversight, and its inability (or unwillingness) to explain such a policy is unacceptable," the Tennessee Republican wrote.

"As a consequence, I have determined that the further commitment of taxpayer funds at this time toward such an incoherent governance strategy would not be in our national interest," said Corker.

The Times reported in April that the cash is sent by the CIA in suitcases, backpacks and even plastic shopping bags and is delivered every month or so. The aid is known around the presidential palace as "ghost money," one Afghan official said.

The practice has been criticized by many Afghan, American, and European officials since the story was first reported. They argue that the money is being used to pay off warlords, politicians, lawmakers,and others that Karzai needs for support.

According to the Times, the money that is being withheld is supposed to help fund elections in April. Karzai says that the money is being used to pay for "operational" costs necessary to build the Afghan National Security Forces.

However, the United States already sends billions of dollars each month to Afghanistan for development and military aid.

The question for Corker is why the money is sent in secret.

"In recent months, I have repeatedly communicated directly to President Obama my concerns regarding alleged cash payments by the U.S. government to President Karzai of Afghanistan," Corker wrote. "Specifically, I highlighted the incoherence of a policy that at once seeks to root out corruption and establish the rule of law, while at the same time funneling secret cash payments to the president."

The halt in aid comes a month after Corker requested an explanation for the "ghost money" program from the White House.

On Monday, Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said that the White House is in contact with Corker's staff since he made his first demand for an explanation in early May.

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"We look forward to continuing to work with him as we work to responsibly bring the war in Afghanistan to an end and support Afghanistan as it builds a more stable and prosperous future for its people," Hayden said.

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