Karzai admits Iran gives him 'bags of cash'

Afghan president Hamid Karzai admitted yesterday that Iran pays hundreds of thousands of pounds into a presidential slush fund run by his office, but angrily dismissed the suggestion of political corruption, claiming the payments were completely "transparent".

The revelation that Mr Karzai's chief of staff, Umar Daudzai, receives "bags of money" to the tune of €700,000 "once or twice a year"– a form of "official aid" according to Mr Karzai – is also a crude reminder of the battle for influence foreigners are waging in Afghanistan. Mr Karzai told a news conference that the presidential office received bundles of cash from "various friendly countries" including the United States.

"It's all the same, let's not make this an issue," he said. Asked what Iran expected in return, he snapped back that they wanted "good relations" and "lots of other things".

"We have also asked lots of things in return in this relationship, so it's a relationship between neighbours and it will go on and we'll continue to ask for cash help from Iran," the President said. The claim that Mr Daudzai, the presidential chief of staff, received Iranian cash surfaced on Sunday in The New York Times but was dismissed by Iran as malicious gossip peddled by the West to undermine Iran's Afghanistan policy. The Iranian embassy in Kabul called the allegations "ridiculous and insulting", although it has been undercut somewhat by Mr Karzai's statements.

The newspaper claimed that Mr Karzai used the money to buy the loyalty of Afghan MPs, tribal elders and Taliban commanders, although the President said the cash payments helped pay expenses and salaries, and debts to "people outside" the presidential palace.

The paper also reported that Mr Daudzai, a former ambassador to Iran, wanted to drive a wedge between the President and his main benefactor, urging him to build a closer relationship with his neighbour at America's expense. "Daudzai is the source of all the problems with the US. He is systematically feeding [Karzai] misinformation, disinformation and wrong information," an associate of the President apparently told the paper. A Daudzai aide dismissed the allegations as "rubbish".

Iran appears to be playing a double game in Afghanistan, funding and training Taliban-led insurgents one minute, and cosying up to Mr Karzai's government the next. Iranian spies, meanwhile, are reported to have financed the campaigns of several candidates in last month's parliamentary election.

The schizophrenic approach is motivated by the conflicting desires of seeing a stable government, in which Afghanistan's Shia minority is strongly represented, at the same time as US influence in the country is undermined.

The Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has denied US intelligence reports that his government is abetting the Taliban. Whatever the exact scale of Iranian aid to the insurgents, it pales in significance compared with the support they receive from Pakistan, another neighbour with a powerful vested interest in Afghanistan's future.

More than anything the "bags of money" saga is a sad and slightly farcical reminder of the boxing match outsiders have been conducting in Afghanistan for decades, to the country's terrible expense.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate