KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Saturday that the CIA's station chief in Kabul has assured him that regular funding the U.S. intelligence agency gives his government will not be cut off.
He said the Afghan government had been receiving funds from CIA for more than a decade as part of regular monthly assistance from the U.S. government.
Karzai had earlier confirmed that his government had received such payments following a story published in The New York Times that said the CIA had given the Afghan National Security Council tens of millions of dollars in monthly payments delivered in suitcases, backpacks and plastic shopping bags.
"The help and assistance from the U.S. is for our National Directorate of Security. That is state-to-state, government-to-government regular assistance," Karzai said. "So that is a government institution helping another government institution, and we appreciate all this assistance and help, all this assistance is very useful for us. We have spent it in different areas (and) solved lots of our problems."
Karzai would not say how much assistance his government had received because it was being used for intelligence work, but acknowledged it was in cash and that "all the money which we have spent, receipts have been sent back to the intelligence service of the United States monthly."
He claimed that much of the money was used to care for wounded employees of the NDS, Afghanistan's intelligence service, and operational expenses.
"It is an official government deal between the two governments. This is happening all over the world — such deals between governments — and in Afghanistan, which is a needy country, these sorts of deals are very important and useful," he said at the news conference, held to announce the results of his recent trip to Europe.
Karzai confirmed the payments during a news conference earlier this week in Helsinki, Finland. After Karzai's confirmation in Europe, White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to comment on the newspaper report, referring questions to the CIA, which also declined comment.
In his gathering with reporters at the presidential palace, Karzai said he had met earlier in the day with the Kabul station chief of the CIA. "I told him because of all these rumors in the media, please do not cut all this money because we really need it," Karzai said. "We want to continue this sort of assistance and he promised that they are not going to cut this money."
He added that negotiations for a new bilateral security agreement with the United States had been delayed because of conditions that Afghanistan had placed on such a deal. The security agreement is to govern a U.S. military presence after 2014 when nearly all foreign combat troops are to have finished their withdrawal from Afghanistan. The talks, which started in late 2012, are set to last up to a year.
President Barack Obama has not said how many troops will remain, although there have been estimates ranging from 8,000 to 12,000. It is unlikely such an announcement will be made until the security agreement is signed. Those troops would help train Afghan forces and also carry out operations against al-Qaida and other militant groups.
Karzai said Afghanistan was ready to sign a deal as long as the American government in exchange for being able to stay on bases in the country agrees to terms of Afghan security, funding assistance and help with training and equipping Afghan security forces. It is thought that the contentious issue of providing U.S. troops immunity from Afghan law is a low priority for the Afghan government in the negotiations.
The Afghan government has not said how much rent it would want for three or four U.S. bases, but it is believed to be in the billions. Afghanistan is also thought to be seeking security guarantees to protect its porous borders, including the frontier with Pakistan that is the main infiltration route for insurgents who retain sanctuary in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas.
"The position of the United States about the security of Afghanistan and relations with neighboring countries, or whatever attacks are happening from the neighboring countries to Afghanistan, should be very clear," Karzai said. "So we are trying our best that the security of Afghanistan should be guaranteed, peace in Afghanistan should be guaranteed, a strengthening of the Afghan security forces should be guaranteed, as well the economy of Afghanistan should be guaranteed."
It was unclear how Karzai expected the United States or any of its allies to guarantee Afghanistan's borders against attack.
Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been severely strained in recent months, especially over the delicate issue of the demarcation of their border.
Afghan and Pakistani forces engaged in a nearly five-hour exchange of fire last Tuesday along Afghanistan's eastern border. One Afghan border policeman was killed and two Pakistani soldiers were wounded in the fighting in eastern Nangarhar province.
The main problem is that Afghanistan does not recognize the disputed Durand Line, the 19th century demarcation between present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan, while Pakistan does.
"Since the Durand line has been imposed on Afghanistan, it was not acceptable to the Afghans and we cannot accept the Durand line," Karzai said. "No government in Afghanistan will accept the Durand Line."
Pakistan and Afghanistan have long been tense neighbors. Afghanistan has been deeply suspicious of the motives of a government that long backed the Taliban regime and has since seemed unable or unwilling to go after militant leaders taking refuge inside its borders. The killing of al-Qaida chief, Osama bin Laden, in Pakistan only strengthened Afghan wariness of the neighboring country.
In an effort to defuse tensions, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on April 24 brought Karzai and Pakistani military chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani together in Brussels for security talks. But he meeting apparently did little to ease the tension.
"We need Pakistan. They are our neighboring country," Karzai said. "While I'm president, I will continue to improve relations with Pakistan. But our position is clear, we don't accept the Durand Line and we will not accept it.
"Whatever the British empire imposed on Afghanistan, it was not acceptable in 1893 and it is not acceptable to us today."