20101026 karzai 18
OCTOBER 25: Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks as he welcomes his counterpart from Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon during a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace on October 25, 2010 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Tajikistan's President Emomali Rakhmon is in Kabul for two days of talks with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai focused on the deteriorating security situation in the region. - 


STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has admitted government officials have received bags of cash from Iran. Literally. Bags of cash. Washington says it remains suspicious of the aid. But can "bags of money" really be called international aid?

From Cairo, the BBC's Jon Leyne reports.

JON LEYNE: What's wrong with handing over bags of cash? On the face of it, nothing at all. Following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the United States famously sent $12 billion in cash to Iraq. The money, shrink-rapped bundles of $100 bills, was loaded on pallets and flown in on C-130 military transport.

In the case of Afghanistan, it's more a question of who gave the money, to whom, for what. President Karzai says it was used to maintain the Presidential Palace and run his office.

HAMID KARZAI: We are grateful for the Iranian help in this regard. The United States is doing the same thing, they're providing cash to some of our offices. If you would like to have the details, we will give you that too.

The problem for Washington is that it is very uneasy about increasing Iranian influence in Afghanistan. It's one thing to see Iran building roads and schools in the west of Afghanistan, as it is quite openly. But this looked to Washington like a rather more underhand way, literally to buy political influence.

In Cairo, I'm the BBC's Jon Leyne for Marketplace.