NEW YORK - The United States, largely because of poor oversight and loose financial controls, has sometimes inadvertently financed the very militants it is fighting, according to an American media report.

While refusing to pay ransoms for Americans kidnapped by Al-Qaeda, the Taliban or, more recently, the Islamic State, the United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars over the last decade at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, some of which has been siphoned off to enemy fighters, The New York Times said in a dispatch from Washington on Saturday.

The newspaper cited a case when about $1 million provided by the CIA to a secret Afghan government fund ended up in the hands of Al-Qaeda in 2010 when it was used to pay a ransom for an Afghan diplomat.

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had at first been concerned about the payment, fearing the CIA knew about the money and had tainted it with poison, radiation or a tracking device, the Times said, and suggested it be converted to another currency.

The newspaper said letters about the ransom payment were found in the 2011 raid by US Navy SEALS who killed bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad. The communications were submitted as evidence in the trial of Abid Naseer, who was convicted this month in New York of supporting terrorism and plotting to bomb a shopping centre in Manchester, England.

The Times said Abdul Khaliq Farahi was the Afghan consul general in Peshawar, when he was kidnapped in 2008 and handed over to Al-Qaeda. He was released two years later after Afghanistan paid Al-Qaeda $5 million, a fifth of which was CIA money that came from an Afghan government fund that received monthly cash deliveries from the agency, the Times said.

The newspaper said an Al-Qaeda official wrote bin Laden that the ransom money would be used for weapons, operational needs and payments to families of Al-Qaeda fighters held in Afghanistan. The Times said the cash the CIA delivered to the Afghan presidential palace under President Hamid Karzai was used to buy the support of warlords, legislators and others, as well as expenses for clandestine diplomatic trips and housing for senior officials. Afghan officials told the newspaper the payments have slowed since Ashraf Ghani became president in September.

Aside from the CIA money, Afghan officials were cited as saying in the dispatch that Pakistan contributed nearly half the ransom in an effort to end what it viewed as a “disruptive sideshow” in its relations with Afghanistan. The remainder came from Iran and Persian Gulf states, which had also contributed to the Afghan president’s secret fund.

In addition to the Al-Qaeda correspondence, the Times said its story was based on conversations with Afghan and Western officials but that the CIA declined to comment.


Online adds: Identifying Pakistan along with Iraq, Syria and North Korea as global hotspots, America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has said these countries pose strategic and tactical challenges to policy makers.

“Developments in a host of countries across the globe are raising strategic and tactical challenges for policymakers and our Agency,” CIA Director John Brennan said, referring to countries like Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, North Korea and Pakistan. “In addition to monitoring developments in these hotspots, our analysts track overall trends in global stability,” he said in rare public remarks by a CIA director, in which he spoke about the terror attack on a Peshawar school last year.

“In December, gunmen in Pakistan opened fire on school children in an attack that, even by the appalling standards of the Pakistani Taliban, was shocking in its moral depravity,” he said, referring to the Peshawar school massacre that left 153 people dead, mostly students.

These attacks underscore a disturbing trend that we have been monitoring for some time, the emergence of a terrorist threat that is increasingly decentralised, difficult to track, and difficult to thwart, the top American spymaster added.