By Sarah Townsend
Afghanistan paid Al Qaeda $5m for the release of its consul general in Peshawar, Pakistan
Around $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, the New York Times reported on Saturday.
The newspaper said Abdul Khaliq Farahi was the Afghan consul general in Peshawar, Pakistan, 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 reportedly CIA money that came from an Afghan government fund which received monthly cash injections from the agency.
The CIA money was intended to be used to buy the support of warlords, legislators and others, and cover expenses for clandestine diplomatic trips and housing for senior officials, the newspaper said.
It reported that letters about the ransom payment for Farahi were found in the 2011 raid by US navy Seals, who killed Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011.
The Al Qaeda communications were submitted as evidence in the trial of Abid Naseer, who was convicted of supporting terrorism and plotting to bomb a shopping centre in Manchester, England, in New York this month.
The New York Times said 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, and suggested it be converted to another currency.
The newspaper said an Al Qaeda member 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 story is just one in a long list of examples of how the US – largely because of poor oversight and loose financial controls – has inadvertently financed the very militants it is fighting, wrote the newspaper.
In addition to Al Qaeda correspondence, the New York Times said its story was based on conversations with Afghan and Western officials, and that the CIA declined to comment.