'Corrupt' aide to Karzai on CIA payroll

Afghan pres. secured Mohammed Salehi's release from prison.

August 26, 2010 09:58
2 minute read.
President Barack Obama meets with Afghan President

Obama and Karzai 311. (photo credit: AP)


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An aide to Afghan President Hamid Karzai is being paid by the Central Intelligence Agency, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Mohammed Zia Salehi,  an Afghan National Security Council official,  was arrested in July amidst allegations of corruption.  It was reported that he was accused of soliciting a bribe to help shut down an investigation into a company suspected of transferring millions of dollars out of the country for officials, insurgents and drug smugglers.

Obama assured Karzai no change in Afghan policy

He has reportedly been on the CIA payroll for a number of years.  His role within the agency was not clear, though it was suggested he could be providing information in exchange for money.

The revelation of this information raised questions about the Obama administration's policy in Afghanistan.

On Sunday, President Karzai admitted to intervening in Salehi's corruption case in order to secure his release from prison.  The Washington Post reported that Karzai spoke to ABC's "This Week" saying:

''Not only did I intervene, but I intervened very, very strongly."

In the same interview, President Karzai defended a decision to disband private security firms, saying they were undermining Afghanistan's police and army and contributing to corruption.

Karzai ordered Afghan and international security companies early last week to disband by the end of the year, despite US concerns the short deadline may endanger American development projects that private guards protect.

NATO uses private security to guard supply convoys bringing food, water, ammunition and other supplies to military bases throughout the country. Critics have said Afghanistan's own security forces are not ready to assume the burden.

But Karzai told ABC News that the companies undermine the government's effort to recruit more police and soldiers because it can't compete with the private firms in salaries. He also repeated allegations that many companies are contributing to corruption by shaking down transport firms for money, some of which goes to warlords and the Taliban for protection.

Even before Karzai's order last week, US congressional investigators had been looking into allegations that Afghan security firms were extorting as much as $4 million a week from contractors paid with US tax dollars and then funneling the money to warlords and the Taliban to avoid attacks against convoys. Allegations of widespread corruption have also been levied at the Afghan police.

"I am appealing to the US taxpayer not allow their hard-earned money to be wasted on groups that are not only providing lots of inconveniences to the Afghan people, but actually are, God knows, in contact with Mafia-like groups and perhaps also funding militants and insurgents and terrorists through those firms," Karzai said.

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