Many Afghans I know had assumed for years that the CIA was doling out cash to Karzai. Even so, the U.S. media expose has made waves, providing evidence for what had only been suspected.
“No wonder he talks so badly against the United States,” one friend said, summarizing the reactions he’d heard. “The cash, on top of everything else America has done for him, just proves how desperately you need him. It means he can do anything.”
This can hardly be the only time the CIA has covertly paid off key foreign leaders, with little if any coordination with other U.S. decision-makers and little understanding of the repercussions. Such activities amount to an independent foreign policy, lacking connection to any concerted plan, and too often conflict with the U.S. government’s wider priorities. It is time, in this as in other domains, to inject some accountability and oversight into CIA operations.
Sarah Chayes, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, lived in Afghanistan for most of the last decade and served as special assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.