- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 14, 2015

One million dollars that the CIA gave to the government of Afghanistan was in turn handed over to al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda offered to free a captive Afghan diplomat in exchange for $5 million in 2010, which left the government under then-president Hamid Karzai trying to find the money. Officials then dug into a secret fund from the Central Intelligence Agency, sent monthly to Afghanistan to help stabilize the government, The New York Times reported Saturday.

After the prisoner exchange was made in June 2010, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, al Qaeda’s general manager, wrote a letter to Osama bin Laden which said that “God blessed us with a good amount of money this month.”

The letter was uncovered by the Navy SEAL raid that killed bin Laden in 2011 at his Abbottabad, Pakistan compound.

The diplomat involved in the exchange, Abdul Khaliq Farahi, was kidnapped in Pakistan in 2008 and held for more than two years before al Qaeda and the Afghan government reached a deal.

The Times reported that the al Qaeda leader thought the deal might be too good to be true, and warned al-Rahman that the money could be laced with trackers or radiation.

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“It seems a bit strange somewhat because in a country like Afghanistan, usually they would not pay this kind of money to free one of their men,” bin Laden wrote, the newspaper reported.

John Sopko, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, estimates that hundreds of millions of dollars have likely been wasted in Afghanistan, either by U.S. government mismanagement or corruption by Afghan officials.

A former Afghan security official told The Times that the U.S. government had little control over the money it sent to the presidential palace to supposedly help rebuild Afghanistan.

“It’s cash,” the official said. “Once it’s at the palace, they can’t do a thing about how it gets spent.”

• Phillip Swarts can be reached at pswarts@washingtontimes.com.

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