At the news conference Saturday, Karzai said he had met earlier in the day with the Kabul station chief of the CIA and was reassured that the agency's payments to the Afghan government would continue. The New York Times had reported that, for more than a decade, the CIA had given the Afghan National Security Council tens of millions of dollars in monthly payments delivered in suitcases, backpacks and plastic shopping bags.
Karzai said he told the station chief: "'Because of all these rumors in the media, please do not cut all this money, because we really need it. We want to continue this sort of assistance.' And he promised that they are not going to cut this money."
Karzai described the payments as a form of "government-to-government" assistance and, while he wouldn't say how much the CIA gave to the National Directorate of Security, which is the Afghan intelligence service, he said the financial help has been very useful. He claimed that much of the money was used to care for wounded employees of the NDS and for operational expenses.
"We have spent it in different areas [and] solved lots of our problems," Karzai said.
He said the CIA payments were made in cash and that "all the money which we have spent, receipts have been sent back to the intelligence service of the United States monthly."
The CIA refused to comment Saturday.
During the news conference at the presidential palace, Karzai also discussed ongoing negotiations on a U.S.-Afghan bilateral security agreement. He said talks had been delayed because of certain conditions that his government is insisting be included in the pact, which will govern a U.S. military presence after 2014, when nearly all foreign combat troops are to have finished their withdrawal from Afghanistan. The talks, which started in late 2012, are expected to last up to a year.
President Obama has not said how many troops will remain, although there have been estimates ranging from 8,000 to 12,000. It is unlikely such an announcement will be made until the security agreement is signed. Those troops would help train Afghan forces and also carry out operations against al-Qaida and other militant groups.
Karzai said Afghanistan is ready to sign a deal as long as the American government, in exchange for being able to stay on bases in the country, agrees to terms of Afghan security, funding assistance and help with training and equipping security forces. It is thought that the contentious issue of providing U.S. troops immunity from Afghan law is a low priority for the Afghan government in the negotiations.
Karzai's government has not said how much rent it would want for three or four U.S. bases, but it is believed to be in the billions. Afghanistan also is thought to be seeking security guarantees to protect its porous borders, including the frontier with Pakistan, which is the main infiltration route for insurgents who retain sanctuary in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas.
It is unclear how Karzai expects the United States or any of its allies to guarantee Afghanistan's borders against attack.