In Afghanistan, Buying Friends Doesn't Buy Loyalty Gen. David Petraeus makes fighting corruption a fundamental part of his strategy to turn Afghanistan around. But while he warns his troops about striking financial deals with potentially unreliable allies, the CIA is prosecuting its part of this war by doing exactly that.
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In Afghanistan, Buying Friends Doesn't Buy Loyalty

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In Afghanistan, Buying Friends Doesn't Buy Loyalty

In Afghanistan, Buying Friends Doesn't Buy Loyalty

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

For the U.S. military, getting corruption under control is a key part of the strategy in Afghanistan. Complicating that mission are reports that the CIA has been paying for information from some prominent Afghan figures accused of corruption, or suspected of serious abuses.

NPR national security correspondent Rachel Martin has this report on those secret intelligence operations.

RACHEL MARTIN: General David Petraeus made it clear: Money is ammunition, he wrote. Don't put it in the wrong hands. Remember, we are who we fund. That warning was part of the guidance Petraeus sent out to all NATO troops in Afghanistan earlier this month. He's made fighting corruption a fundamental part of his strategy to turn Afghanistan around. But while Petraeus is warning his troops about striking financial deals with potentially unreliable allies, the CIA is prosecuting its part of this war by doing exactly that.

Mr. RICK NELSON (Counterterrorism Expert; Senior Fellow, Center for Strategic and International Studies): We have a strategy that's internally inconsistent.

MARTIN: Rick Nelson is a counterterrorism expert, and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He says the CIA is fighting the counterterrorism component of the war, which means getting information about those plotting to attack the U.S. or the Afghan government.

Mr. NELSON: To get that information, and that's a method that's been used throughout the years by anybody, is to pay - by many governments, is to pay individuals to give you information. Unfortunately, that's also considered corruption.

Mr. NELSON: Last week, the New York Times first reported that the CIA is paying a key member of President Karzai's national security team. Karzai's own brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, has been reportedly getting paid by the agency, and former U.S. officials say Abdul Rashid Dostum, a warlord accused of war crimes, has been on and off the CIA payroll since the U.S. invasion.

The CIA has a long history of buying alliances with power brokers in the region, that stretches back to the Cold War. Paul Pillar spent almost 30 years in the CIA. Now, he teaches at Georgetown University.

Professor PAUL PILLAR (Security Studies, Georgetown University): It is no surprise, and it is no exception, from longstanding ways in which intelligence services around the world have done business, to deal with the people they have to deal with in order to get the information they're seeking. And many of those people are not the kinds of folks that you would want as long-term friends.

MARTIN: Pillar says it's a matter of timelines. U.S. and NATO troops are working on a longer term mission that involves building up Afghan capacity while the CIA, he says, is pursuing shorter-term objectives: find such and such insurgent, neutralize the threat he poses, and do so by whatever means necessary.

Prof. PILLAR: I don't see how you can tell our decision-makers or our agencies of government - whether they're military or intelligence or anything else - to set aside either the short-term mission or the long-term mission. To get through the next month and the next year, we have to work with the ally we've got, and that's the Karzai government.

MARTIN: But allies - especially the kind you pay - can be fickle and fleeting. Again, Rick Nelson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Mr. NELSON: So when you're paying someone, you are renting their allegiance temporarily. It is not a long-term deal. It is not you'll - guaranteed loyalty for life.

MARTIN: The kind of alliance that's only good, he says, until someone else comes along with a higher offer.

Rachel Martin, NPR News, Washington.

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