The CIA's main goal in providing the money was to keep access to President Hamid Karzai and to ensure the agency's influence in the highly centralized government, but the payments have not always produced the desired result, the Times reported Sunday.
The cash payments, delivered to the presidential palace in suitcases, backpacks and even plastic shopping bags, began after Iran began giving money to the Afghans in an influence-buying campaign designed to wedge them away from the United States, the report said.
Karzai signed a strategic partnership deal with the United States last year that Iran objected to but, on the other hand, he wants to control militias created and funded by the CIA to target al-Qaida members and insurgent commanders, the report said.
Handouts of CIA cash have been routine since the start of the war, with the agency buying the services of numerous warlords during the 2001 invasion, the Times said.
Much of the money is used to pay off warlords and politicians, some of whom have ties to the drug trade and even the Taliban, the report said. The effect, some American and Afghan officials told the Times, has essentially left the Afghan government in the hands of organized crime syndicates.