US not in 'bags of cash business in Afghanistan'
The White House on Tuesday said it does not indulge in cash transactions in Afghanistan and all its assistance to the war-torn country is accountable to the Congress, after Afghan President Hamid Karzai had said that he received "bags of cash" from Iran and the United States.
"We provide assistance and aid to the Afghan government through a fairly well-established developmental aid program. We're not in the big bags of cash business," the White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, told reporters at his daily news conference.
"The United States provides assistance through US aid and development programs. We provide aid through a process that's appropriated through Congress, goes through steps and helps in a series of development projects and improves democracy and governance," he said.
Karzai had acknowledged on Monday that he receives millions of dollars in cash from Iran. But he added that Washington gives him "bags of cash" too because his office lacks funds.
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Image: US President Barack Obama looks over at Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai during a news conference at the White House
Photographs: Jim Young/Reuters
'Cash assistance is not a secret'
Meanwhile, former Afghan minister Ali Jalali told the PBS news hour that accepting cash is not a new development in Afghanistan.
"As far as the cash assistance is concerned, I think it is not a secret. Many times, I heard it from President Karzai in the Cabinet meeting, that he said he used it for certain projects and as well as the US helps Afghanistan, not only the government, but even some, you know, power brokers with cash and money," he said.
Pointing out that the situation in Afghanistan is very complex, Jalali said, "There are so many hands in the jar, therefore it's not surprising."
"I don't think Iran can buy Afghanistan with that kind of money. President Karzai and all Afghans, I think, believe that the magnitude of the US' investment in Afghanistan in the presence of so many troops and the commitment of the US, is beyond the imagination that somebody will undermine that with some money," he said.
Image: A US Army soldier gives a fist bump to residents in Kandahar province in Afghanistan
Photographs: Erik de Castro/Reuters
'Afghanistan has to live with its neighbours'
Jalali agreed that Afghanistan has to live with its neighbours and he said dealing with neighbours will not undermine commitment of the international community to the war-torn country.
He cautioned the international community on Karzai bashing saying that this will backfire. "Things are not going well. There's no doubt about that. But I think, unfortunately, instead of trying to solve these problems, defuse these tensions, the -- this Karzai-bashing is not going to help," he said.
Meanwhile, the White House, apparently referring to Iran, has cautioned neighbouring countries of Afghanistan, where US is engaged in a war against terror, to refrain from having any negative influence on the current Hamid Karzai regime.
The subtle warning to Afghan neighbours comes after reports from Kabul said that Iran is giving "bags full of money" to the Karzai administration and is believed to be training Taliban force.
Image: Afghan President Hamid Karzai welcomes his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad upon his arrival in Kabul
'Karzai is a partner'
"We closely monitor what happens in Afghanistan. Those efforts at moderating include making sure that its neighbours do not provide an unnecessary or negative -- don't exert negative or unnecessary influence on that country," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters at his daily news conference.
"I would remind all the countries in that region that they have a responsibility to play a constructive role in the future of Afghanistan," Gibbs said in response to a question about news reports of the recent developments in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, State Department spokesman P J Crowley said that US has an effective relationship with Karzai. "Our strategy is in support of his government and working with his government to help the people of Afghanistan. We have an effective relationship with President Karzai," he said.
"The Secretary of State (Hillary Clinton) talks to President Karzai on a regular basis. As we indicated, she was in contact with him on Saturday as part of one of her regularly scheduled calls with him. He is a partner. We are working closely with his government to improve the security of the country," Crowley said.
"General (David) Petraeus and Ambassador (Karl) Eikenberry meet with him on a regular basis. So I would describe our relationship as very solid and working to fulfil our mutual interests," he added.
Image: Karzai and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talk while walking in a private Georgetown garden in Washington
Photographs: Cliff Owen/Reuters