KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan’s former president argued Tuesday that Washington helped fuel corruption in his nation by spending hundreds of millions of dollars over the past two decades without accountability.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Hamid Karzai responded to findings from a trove of newly published documents that successive U.S. administrations misled the public about the war in Afghanistan.
Karzai said the documents, obtained by The Washington Post, confirm his long-running complaints about U.S. spending.
The documents also describe Karzai, Afghanistan’s president for 14 years, as having headed a government that “self-organized into a kleptocracy.” Karzai has denied wrong-doing but hasn't denied involvement of officials in his government in corruption.
Karzai became Afghanistan’s president after a 2001 U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban government. Thousands of pages of documents recently obtained by the Post portray U.S. governments lying about successes and hiding failures. After 18 years and over $1 trillion dollars in U.S. taxpayer money spent on the war, the Taliban is now at its strongest and controls or holds sway over half the country.
Karzai said the U.S. spent hundreds of millions of dollars in its war on terror, with the money flowing to contractors and private security firms, and that this fostered corruption.
“What could we do? It was U.S. money coming here and used by them and used for means that did not help Afghanistan,” Karzai said.
He argued that there was no accountability.
"I'm glad this report is out, and I hope this becomes an eye-opener to the American people and that the U.S. government begins to change its attitude now toward Afghanistan,” he said.
Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the U.S. based Wilson Center has said, “I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say that the U.S. used corruption as a tool, but it has long been suspected — and these new documents make quite clear — that U.S. officials have thrown huge amounts of money at Afghanistan knowing full well that this would lead to more corruption than development or peace."
The Pentagon said Monday there had been “no intent” to mislead Congress or the public, and that the Defense Department gave regular updates to lawmakers on U.S. challenges in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has been trying to broker a peace deal that would pave the way for a pullout of U.S. forces.
U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on Saturday held the first official talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban since previous seemingly successful efforts ran aground in September.
The talks will initially focus on getting a Taliban promise to reduce violence, with a permanent cease-fire being the eventual goal, said a U.S. statement. Khalilzad is also trying to lay the groundwork for negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the protracted conflict.
The Taliban continue to stage staging near-daily attacks that target Afghan security forces and government officials but also kill scores of civilians.