Afghan president Hamid Karzai, has recently been criticised for taking 'ghost money' from the CIA and MI6. The sums are inevitably unknown, for the usual reasons of 'national security', but are estimated to have been tens of millions of dollars. While this is nowhere near the eye-bleeding $12billion shipped over to Iraq on pallets in the wake of the invasion a decade ago, it is still a significant amount.
And how has this money been spent? Certainly not on social projects or rebuilding initiatives. Rather, the reporting indicates, the money has been funnelled to Karzai's cronies as bribes in a corrupt attempt to buy influence in the country.
None of this surprises me. MI6 has a long and ignoble history of trying to buy influence in countries of interest. In 1995/96 it funded a "ragtag group of Islamic extremists", headed up by a Libyan military intelligence officer, in an illegal attempt to try to assassinate Colonel Gaddafi. The attack went wrong and innocent people were killed. When this scandal was exposed, it caused an outcry.
Yet a mere 15 years later, MI6 and the CIA were back in Libya, providing support to the same 'rebels', who this time succeeded in capturing, torturing and killing Gaddafi, while plunging Libya into apparently endless internecine war. This time around there was little international outcry, as the world's media portrayed this aggressive interference in a sovereign state as 'humanitarian relief'.
And we also see the same in Syria now, as the CIA and MI6 are already providing training and communications support to the rebels - many of whom, particularly the Al Nusra faction in control of the oil-rich north-east of Syria are in fact allied with Al Qaeda in Iraq. So in some countries the UK and USA use drones to target and murder 'militants' (plus villagers, wedding parties and other assorted innocents), while in others they back ideologically similar groups.
Recently we have also seen the Western media making unverified claims that the Syrian regime is using chemical weapons against its own people, and our politicians leaping on these assertions as justification for openly providing weapons to the insurgents too. Thankfully, other reports are now emerging that indicate it was the rebels themselves who have been using sarin gas against the people. This may halt the rush to arms, but no doubt other support will continue to be offered by the West to these war criminals.
So how is MI6 secretly spending UK taxpayers' money in Afghanistan? According to western media reporting, it is being used to prop up warlords and corrupt officials. This is deeply unpopular amongst the Afghan people, leading to the danger of increasing support for a resurgent Taliban.
There is also a significant overlap between the corrupt political establishment and the illegal drug trade, up to and including the president's late brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai. So, another unintentional consequence may be that some of this unaccountable ghost money is propping up the drug trade.
Afghanistan is the world's leading producer of heroin, and the UN reports that poppy growth has increased dramatically. Indeed, the UN estimates that acreage under poppy growth in Afghanistan has tripled over the last seven years. The value of the drug trade to the Afghan warlords is now estimated to be in the region of $700million per year. You can buy a lot of Kalashnikovs with that.
So on the one hand we have our Western governments bankrupting themselves to fight the 'war on terror', breaking international laws and murdering millions of innocent people across North Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia while at the same time shredding what remain of our hard-won civil liberties at home.
On the other hand, we apparently have MI6 and the CIA secretly bankrolling the very people in Afghanistan who produce 90% of the world's heroin. And then, of course, more scarce resources can be spent on fighting the failed 'war on drugs' and yet another pretext is used to shred our civil liberties.
This is a lucrative economic model for the burgeoning military-security complex.
However, it is a lose-lose scenario for the rest of us.