CIA political bribery proves unsurprising

The New York Times recently brought to light the CIA’s decade-long practice of secretly funneling tens of millions of dollars to the Karzai government in Afghanistan. Newly discovered accounts of stealthy cash drop-offs directly to Karzai’s offices indicate an extensive network of political bribery, and many reports indicate the money was frequently used to further the pervasive corruption within the Afghan government. It also appears these secret payments have been notably inadequate in ameliorating U.S.-Afghan relations or constructively contributing to the demise of the Taliban insurgency.

According to the article, the CIA has been pouring cash into Karzai’s office since the onset of the war effort in 2001. Even if this secret delivery of money had proved effective in buying Karzai’s support, the ethics of the ongoing operation are still in question. Over the past 12 years, however, it is clear that the CIA funds have not made Karzai or any of his top officials more cooperative in passing progressive domestic policies. The Afghan president has shown signs of mental instability and has been at best unreliable in backing the American agenda in Afghanistan. After more than a decade of clandestine cash deliveries meant to secure his loyalty and the place of American influence within his political circle, it is still largely unclear where Karzai’s loyalties lie.

Continuous American support to Karzai’s administration has been called fundamental for the establishment of his authority and the prevention of Taliban insurgency. Whether Karzai has conducted his administration suitably is a delicate topic, but even in the negative case it could be worse without him. That is, in the face of Taliban and terrorist insurgency, even the maintenance of a supposedly corrupt government could be justifiable. This phenomenon is not new in international diplomacy — for example, even while protesting the way North Korea is run, China supports the North Koreans because its collapse would imply an increased American presence in the region — despite long-term adverse effects.

There should be little surprise that the CIA is engaged in such reckless, unchecked behavior. Its historically stubborn insistence on pursuing an initial course of action regardless of poor results and negative externalities has once again wasted valuable funding that should be spent on productive policymaking. It is unequivocally obvious and unfortunate that our bribery of an already unstable and corrupt government has worsened instead of preserved the status quo.

A version of this article appeared in the Apr. 30 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected]