On Wednesday, Afghanistan’s top inspector general said the Biden administration had blocked his attempts to obtain data about aid to the country after the U.S. military withdrawal, raising concerns that U.S. taxpayer dollars were likely ending up in the hands of the Taliban.
Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko testified before the House Oversight Committee and declared that he could not assure this committee or the American taxpayer that they are not currently funding the Taliban.
He also said he could not guarantee that the Taliban are not misappropriating the funds we send them.
He listed how food aid was being diverted and how organizations were being forced to pay fees to function in Afghanistan as examples of what he called the Taliban’s “siphoning off” of products and monies entering the nation.
Mr. Sopko blamed the “abject refusal” of the State Department and USAID to allow oversight and the “weak oversight practices” inside the foreign organizations managing Afghan assistance.
When asked about his previous interactions with the State Department, U.S.A.I.D., and the Pentagon, Mr. Sopko responded that they used to brief regularly before lamenting the inaccessibility of documents on the more than $8 billion in U.S. aid he said had been handed to Afghanistan since the evacuation. Nothing has been heard from the government since the new administration took office.
In response, the Biden administration argued that the inspector general exaggerated the degree to which his requests were met and assumed a greater scope than he was granted under the law.
According to a State Department official, Mr. Sopko’s primary area of responsibility—the rehabilitation of Afghanistan—ended when the Taliban took power in August 2021.
The meeting was supposed to be a place to examine the Biden administration’s conduct during the withdrawal, but the leading Democrat on the panel, Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin, called that focus “absurdly narrow.”
Nonetheless, Mr. Sopko’s charges prompted unusual bipartisan fury among legislators.
Democrat from Maryland’s House of Representatives Kweisi Mfume remarked, “I don’t know how any of us can defend that” when asked about the issue of inadequate accountability.
Mr. Sopko, for his part, made it clear that his issue was not with the aid itself but with his ability to provide oversight over the money being moved to Afghanistan.