Afghan president condemns reports of CIA payments to his officials

Afghanistan's presidential office has condemned US media reports that Afghan government officials have received payments from the CIA in return for information.

KABUL // Afghanistan's presidential office today condemned US media reports that Afghan government officials have received payments from the CIA in return for information. A statement called the reports part of an attempt to divert attention from the greater priorities of fighting terrorism, preventing civilian casualties, and disbanding private security companies blamed for lawlessness and corruption.

"Afghanistan believes that making such allegations will not strengthen the alliance against terrorism and will not strengthen an Afghanistan based on the law and rules, but will have negative effects in those areas," the statement said. "We strongly condemn such irresponsible allegations which just create doubt and defame responsible people of this country." Allegations of CIA payments to members of the Afghan government have raised concerns at a time when the United States is pressing Afghan officials to make the government less corrupt.

The New York Times reported the agency is paying Mohammed Zia Salehi, the chief of administration for Afghanistan's National Security Council, for information. The Washington Post had a similar report. The Presidential Office statement did not address or deny any specific allegations, but called the reports an insult to the government and an attempt to defame people within it. President Hamid Karzai's government has accused Mr Salehi of accepting a car in exchange for his help in exerting pressure on Afghan officials to ease off in another corruption case.

The United States has said it views Mr Salehi's arrest as a test case of President Karzai's willingness to battle corruption in his government. The allegation that Mr Salehi also received payments from the US spy agency demonstrates the complex relationship Washington has developed with the Afghan government. George Little, spokesman for the CIA, would neither confirm nor deny the report. He said speculation about such matters was dangerous.

The CIA has placed many Afghan officials on its payroll over the years, according to Ali Jalali, the Afghan interior minister from 2003 to 2005 and now a professor in the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at the US National Defense University. He said the US intelligence agency has had deep involvement in Afghanistan for decades, and it would be natural for the CIA to have long-standing relationships with many Afghan officials.

* AP