Where has America's cash gone in Afghanistan?

News that the CIA has been dumping 'ghost money' there for years just compounds the bitter truth about ingrained corruption.

By Jonathan Berr Apr 30, 2013 11:39AM
File photo of Afghan President Hamid Karzai on March 23, 2013 (© Anja Niedringhaus/AP Photo)As shocking as The New York Times' report of the CIA giving tens of millions of dollars in "ghost money" to Afghan President Hamid Karzai (pictured) is, the country has been haunted by the specter of corruption for years. What's really shocking is that no one is quite sure how much U.S. taxpayers' money has gone down the drain there.

Uncle Sam has spent more than $400 billion over 10 years to bring peace and democracy to a country that has historically had neither. More than 2,000 Americans have been killed and 16,000 have been wounded so far in Afghanistan. Sadly, the U.S. has had precious little to show for the return on its investment, either financial or human.

About 30% to 50% of the Afghan economy is based on the opium trade, so corruption is quite pervasive. A 2012 Atlantic article noted that "billions in U.S. aid funds have been misappropriated." The Times report notes that Iran has funneled money through Karzai's office as well, which raises the question of what the U.S. is getting for all its efforts.

The people of Afghanistan sure aren't benefiting.

According to a report released earlier this year by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, half of Afghan citizens reported in a survey that they had paid a bribe while requesting a public service. It pegged the total cost of bribes at $3.9 billion, which has increased 40% in real terms between 2009 an 2012.

"While corruption is seen by Afghans as one of the most urgent challenges facing their country, it seems to be increasingly embedded in social practices, with patronage and bribery being an acceptable part of day-to-day life," according to the U.N. report.

Karzai's term ends in 2014, when the U.S. combat mission is set to officially end. What happens then is anyone's guess. But one thing's for sure: Afghanistan doesn't just have "ghost money" -- it's an all-too-real financial haunted house.

Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter @jdberr.

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42Comments
Apr 30, 2013 1:46PM
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We keep giving money to countries that dont even like us. Why ? The money we give them is used AGAINST US. What are they thinking in DC
Apr 30, 2013 12:40PM
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Whoever would have thought that a country like Afghanistan with all its warlords and antiquated government would ever embrace anything except what they have now. The US should have seen that nothing would change because there is just too much money to be made from drugs and investments from foreign countries such as the US. It was a pipe dream to start with and continues to be to this day.

When hostilities are over, it will be a short time before everything is back to where it was. The warlords will be in charge, the women will be wearing whatever the Taliban is telling them to wear, girls will be forbidden to attend school, and killing will continue just as it has since men traveled their routes, selling their wares from one village to another. The people are a hearty group that will survive because that's all that they have ever done. Who was it that said that it was going to be a democracy? Not in our lifetime.

Apr 30, 2013 1:34PM
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SERIOUSLY?  they've been fighting over there for 2000 (TWO THOUSAND) YEARS!!! Obviously, they don't like each other - which is completely understandable because most Americans aren't too fond of them either!  who are we to think we can go in there and make them "play nice in the sandbox (literally)"!!!  Why not have the US Government re-print the money and give this money to the American taxpayer - MUCH more productive and would be a BENEFIT to our country - something Karzai will NEVER BE !!!
Apr 30, 2013 1:59PM
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Ask Obama where it is........... what happened to the promised transparency?
Apr 30, 2013 2:32PM
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American people should cut the Government off completely in the wonderful state of Colorado they are approving in-state tuition for illegals and giving them drivers licenses to boot this collection of idiots both State and Federal level will eventually have this country at war with itself!  Look at this countries  infrastructure it is in atrocious condition because of nothing other than neglect of elected officials and these fools continue to give money away to people who will still be living in mud huts 20 years from now!
Apr 30, 2013 2:13PM
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WONDER WHO THEIR NEXT PRESIDENT WILL BE FOR US TO GIVE MONEY TO ? OH WAIT WE DONT HAVE ANY AH BETTER GET SOME MORE FROM CHINA.............. A JR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT IS SMARTER  THAN THESE PEOPLE RUNNING THIS COUNTRY INTO THE GROUND I MIGHT ADD

Apr 30, 2013 2:13PM
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This happens in every war. This is how we waste money...
Apr 30, 2013 2:34PM
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It is better not to pay taxes so nothing will go to potential enemies.
Apr 30, 2013 2:43PM
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WHAT THE U.S MUST DO IS DECLARE WAR ON THE USA , SO WE CAN SPEND THE MONEY HERE INSTEAD OF SOME WAY ELSE, FIGHT AGAINST DRUGS,CRIME,ETC ETC,BUILD ARE ROAD AN  INFRASTRUCTURE, I`AM SO ANGRY IN WHAT I HEAR EVERY OTHER DAY , AN YET WE`RE BLIND, I BELIEVE IN USA WAKE UP AMERICA ,I MISS YOU.

GET RID OF THESE POLITICAIANS THAT ARE NOT WORKING FOR US,FIND PEOPLE WHO WILL.

           I`M GETTING OLD WE CAN DO BETTER. I LOVE THE USA..................

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Hmm let's see Taliban take over Afganistan and are told by DEA to curb opium crops. This fits with Taliban religion which forbides drug use.

 

Taliban in 1999-2000 is on cover of Time magazine as having stopped opium crops in Afganistan.

 

The US invades and opium crops become the single largest crop in Afganistan and this year is a record breaking crop.

 

Remember the CIA and Oliver North and the drugs for weapons for Iranian hostages deal Reagan put together???

 

Seems like our money went to securing the drugs for the CIA

 

That is why Bush said Mission Accomplished the drugs were flowing once again along with the oil.

Apr 30, 2013 2:39PM
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once the $$ faucet is turned on in Washington DC, the handle is removed, never to be found.  The people "We" put in office "know best," just ask them.  Politicians (both parties) live off the backs of the tax payers and so do their friends abroad.  The politicians keep us fighting amongst ourselves because too many align with their party (okay I understand) against the other and all the while building/keeping their own power.  It is very sad.  DC has us pointing the finger at each other and all the while they make the laws.  Think about it, many talk about corporations moving jobs overseas, corporate welfare, 47% of our population pay no taxes, we vilify those who make millions and pay no taxes to very little.  Why do we spend energy barking at those people, rather than pointing at the lawmakers who make these wrong's a legal avenue?  Are we Pons?  Washington needs an overhaul and so do our collective attitudes (i.e. follow like sheep).
Apr 30, 2013 3:27PM
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These worthless countries have been crap for thousands of years and will continue to be.  Money will never solve their issues.  Stop the money, nuke the entire middle east and start over!  Been a problem since Biblical times and continue to be....time to take out the trash for good! 
Apr 30, 2013 1:38PM
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Invading Afghanistan AND Iraq was the stupidest thing ever.  I agreed with the initial attack on the Al Queda training site, but nothing else.  At the end of the day, the conditions will be the same or worse, and they will hate us more.  Really stupid strategy, we should have listened to the Europeans like the French, who actually know something about international relations.  We seem to have forgotten all that we did know.
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We never learned anything from the British and Russian misadventures in that country. And remember this was part of the Bush-Cheney legacy, they started it with no end game considered whatsoever !!! 

 

After we are pretty much out of there it will revert as it always has. It is a tribal culture and always will be.

Apr 30, 2013 3:22PM
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I am not surprised this is the way the goverment operates and putting in that crook Kazai he  is just like the old pakastan president who was hiding bin laden the whole time and we were giving them billions of dollars for what , I am a veteran and i have been waiting for my compensation/pension and living below poverty level THANK YOU VERY MUCH !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Apr 30, 2013 3:47PM
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"As shocking as report of the CIA giving tens of millions of dollars in "ghost money" to Afghan President Hamid Karzai (pictured) is, the country has been haunted by the specter of corruption for years. What's really shocking is that no one is quite sure how much U.S. taxpayers' money has gone down the drain there" Both the UK/US and other countries hand money over to them, i wouldn't be surprised if the money was given to the terrorists to buy new weapons to hurt and kill our own people!
Apr 30, 2013 3:59PM
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And this is news to the media and the US government? Anyone with a reasonable amount of intelligence, and not brainwashed by politics, would be able to see this happening with a guy like Karzai in office.
Apr 30, 2013 2:13PM
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why not bring them over here so we can give them some milk and Honey.....

Apr 30, 2013 2:08PM
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Highly recommend this book about Afghanistan.

 

Apr 30, 2013 2:24PM
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Deaths of allied forces by year over there.
You may find this interesting.

Now we have, "don't cross this line", "well OK, but don't cross that line"... 



200100000000000000000000000000001212
2002010403000010000000000000000034970
200300020000006000000000002000004858
200400010100300010000001000000015260
20050001000020402000000001101820199131
200600036000060006000040000101003998191
2007030301621307020000802111140042117232
200803032213101103220110600703020051155295
200904132074011070912003018030102108317521
20100100160910165921200004156060430103499711
201101104231126573810060411302040046418566
2012170000008700500020600000001244310402
201300000100000000004000100000033342
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