Karzai’s ‘ghost money’—he warned us in 2008

Word that the CIA gave Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office tens of millions of dollars in cash over a decade is a weird blend of shocking and entirely unsurprising. After all, when it comes to dollars, Karzai made his goals pretty clear as far back as December 2008.

The New York Times reported Monday that the CIA dropped suitcases, backpacks and shopping bags full of money for Karzai in a bid to purchase influence. The cash instead helped fuel Afghanistan’s raging corruption epidemic and empowered warlords, the Times said.

"The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan," one American official said, "was the United States." (Karzai recently said that, too.)

But here’s Karzai, letting everyone in on the plan during a joint December 2008 press conference in Kabul with then-President George W. Bush.

Karzai had been asked by Steven Lee Myers of The New York Times whether he hoped for a withdrawal timetable—a date certain when American troops would be gone.

Afghanistan won't let the "international community" leave "before we are fully on our feet, before we are strong enough to defend our country, before we are powerful enough to have a good economy, and before we have taken from President Bush and the next administration billions and billions of more dollars,” Karzai said. The transcript records “(laughter),” but it was more awkward and disbelieving than appreciative. “No way that they can let you go,” Karzai added. A joke? Half-joke? Moment of candor?

Bush’s response? “Yes, you better hurry up, in my case.”