State Department reporters asked acting Deputy Spokesman Patrick Ventrell to confirm a New York Times article that states President Karzai receives monthly payments, in cash, from the U.S. government. According to the Time, Karzai said, “Yes, the office of national security has been receiving support from the United States for the past 10 years … Not a big amount. A small amount, which has been used for various purposes.” Ventrell denied any knowledge of the reports and also refused to acknowledge that such support existed. Ventrell said, “I don’t know in every form that it went, and we have a number of different ways to support institutions in developing societies. And Afghanistan is, indeed, one society that’s had to rebuild from the ground up. So I’m not aware of all of our assistance programs over the many years.”
QUESTION: What can you tell us about those wads of cash that have been handed over in suitcases and briefcases over the last 10 years to the Afghan Government?
MR. VENTRELL: I have nothing for you on that one way or another.
QUESTION: President Karzai actually confirmed today that that was the case, that some tens of millions of dollars have been handed over by the CIA over the last 10 years. I mean, this would – would this be a usual way of handing over tax dollar money?
MR. VENTRELL: I really have nothing for you one way or another.
QUESTION: Was there no State Department – there must be some State Department kind of cooperation or insistence, or at least the CIA would have asked for your advice on whether this was a good thing to do or not.
MR. VENTRELL: Jo, I really have nothing one way or another in terms of this – our Department has done extensive cooperation and development work over the years, but I have nothing for you on these specific claims one way or another.
QUESTION: This building has in the past talked about cash being transferred, has it not?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, in terms of supporting Afghan institutions or in other countries, have we provided direct cash assistance?
QUESTION: Yeah, either legally or – yeah, about the delivery of actual cash to Afghan officials, including President Karzai. I mean, one of your predecessors stood at the podium and said that, so I’m not sure I understand why –
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t remember that –
QUESTION: Is it because this – is it because the CIA was supposedly involved that you’re not going to talk about – you don’t want to talk about it?
MR. VENTRELL: Despite remembering very much of what has happened at this podium, Matt, I’m not remembering this specific instance. But the bottom line is we provide our development assistance to Afghanistan, whether it’s done in cash or in kind or otherwise –
QUESTION: No, I’m just trying to figure out, is there a reason that you’re not wanting to talk about this is because it’s the CIA that’s involved and it’s not you.
MR. VENTRELL: It doesn’t involve the State Department.
QUESTION: Okay. But when it comes to the State Department development assistance or whatever kind of assistance the Department is, you’re not denying that some of it was delivered in cash, are you?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, I can’t sort of deny a negative over 11 years of cooperation assistance. I don’t know in every form that it went, and we have a number of different ways to support institutions in developing societies. And Afghanistan is, indeed, one society that’s had to rebuild from the ground up. So I’m not aware of all of our assistance programs over the many years.