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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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: Salesforce Developer

£50000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued business growt...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Sales Executive

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Finance / Accounts Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established and expanding ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss