A US official has raised the alarm on Iran’s “negative influence” in Afghanistan.

The statement is a direct response to President Karzai’s admission that he has received cash from Tehran in the past to “help run the president’s office.” According to the New York Times, aides close to President Karzai have been seen taking bags stuffed with cash from Iranian agents.

The Afghan government claims that the money is part of the “five or six or seven hundred thousand euros” that Iran provides to Afghanistan in the form of official aid “one or twice every year.” The problem is that there is little to no oversight of where the money actually goes, so it’s highly likely that a majority of the money goes towards making sure that key decision-makers on the inside and outside of the Afghan government remain positively disposed to Tehran.

It’s likely that there is no nefarious motive behind Iranian moves to curry favour in Kabul; it’s merely how things are done in Afghanistan. As far as the government in Iran is concerned, the present government in Kabul is far more preferable to the Taliban alternative, thus it is in Tehran’s best interests not to undermine President Karzai.

The real story here is that even after nine years, the government of Afghanistan remains corrupt and inefficient- a combination that doesn’t bode well for its continued existence.

Over at Asia Times, Kaveh L Afrasiabi has written a piece that calls the New York Time’s allegations of Iranian bribery into question:

“Some Tehran observers have wondered aloud if the New York Times story is part of the US’s attempt to gain leverage over Karzai’s government, which includes several members of the Islamic Party associated with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar – wanted by the US – as well as with the current activities of the Supreme Peace Council of Afghanistan, headed by a former president Burhanuddin Rabbani and which is nominally independent of both the government as well as foreign sources.”