Afghanistan: An Endless Financial Sinkhole

As we noted in the news section yesterday, The New York Times reported this week on “bags of cash” that have been continually sent to Afghan President Hamid Karzai “courtesy of the CIA.”
Despite its unsurprising “revelations,” the story has received a lot of attention from Americans who are tired of fighting the lost war in Afghanistan and resentful that so many resources have gone to that sinkhole of a “nation-building” project.
In response to the report, Karzai admitted it matter-of-factly. An excerpt is featured in this Jake Tapper clip:

“…in a, eh, not big amount, no, small amount.” Well, I’ll take the description as relative, given that the Times reported, “All told, tens of millions of dollars have flowed from the C.I.A. to the office of President Hamid Karzai.”
This is a guy whose immense power over an entire country is totally illegitimate, having rose to the position in the aftermath of US-imposed regime change and military occupation and kept it by orchestrating fraudulent elections. The entire edifice of the Afghan government over which Karzai presides is sustained through a massive influx of US foreign aid – more than $16 billion since 2008 alone (not including the cost of conducting the war).
Under Karzai, Afghanistan has retained the title of being one of the most corrupt nations on the planet, and that is primarily in reference to the financial conduct of the government; never mind Karzai’s pettier preoccupations, like torturing prisoners and agreeing to pardon an imprisoned woman for the crime of being raped, on the one condition that she marry the man that raped her.
All this, and the CIA still sees fit to continue sending Karzai tens of millions of dollars in secret. Just as a reminder for those not as schooled in the art of pronouncing the utterly obvious, the CIA isn’t a corporation – they aren’t a business producing something in exchange for money. They have no money of their own. The wads of cash they’re regularly sending to people like Karzai come straight from the hard-earned paychecks of you and your neighbors.
As to Tapper’s question, Galbraith is correct that the payments have been a total waste. As the Times reported, “there is little evidence that the payments bought the influence the CIA sought. Instead, some American officials said, the cash has fueled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington’s exit strategy from Afghanistan.”
The fact that the war cannot be “won” plays into this endlessly-paying-billions-for-absolutely-nothing game Washington has been playing in Afghanistan. British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said in January that there is a “growing realization on both sides of” the conflict in Afghanistan “that neither side can win outright.”
The Taliban actually control entire parts of the country, where they “collect taxes, maintain law and order, and adjudicate disputes,” Dexter Filkins reported in the New Yorker in July. An Afghan told Filkins, the “country will be divided into twenty-five or thirty fiefdoms, each with its own government,” as soon as they Americans leave.
“We are probably headed for stalemate in 2014,” says Stephen Biddle, a George Washington University political science professor who has advised U.S. commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“If that is the case, the U.S. will have to pump billions of dollars a year into Afghanistan for decades to prevent its collapse,” the AP reported Biddle as saying.