WASHINGTON — Afghanistan’s top inspector general on Wednesday accused the Biden administration of sabotaging efforts to obtain records on aid to the country since the withdrawal of U.S. troops, leaving American taxpayer dollars likely to end up in the hands of the Taliban. I warned you.
“We cannot assure this committee or the American taxpayer that we are not currently funding the Taliban,” said John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Reconstruction of Afghanistan (SIGAR), before the House Oversight Committee. said at the hearing. “Nor can we guarantee that the Taliban have not misappropriated the money we sent from the intended recipient.”
He pointed out how Taliban fighters are “siphoning” goods and funds entering Afghanistan, such as by diverting food aid and forcing groups to pay fees to operate in the country.
Sopko denounced weak oversight within international agencies dealing with aid to Afghanistan, saying the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development “absolutely refused” to allow oversight.
“We had regular briefings,” Sopko said of previous engagements with the State Department, USAID and the Pentagon, lamenting the inability to access records for more than $8 billion in U.S. aid. I was. It had been offered to Afghanistan since its evacuation. “The radio has been silent since this administration took office.”
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The Biden administration has refuted this allegation, effectively accusing the Inspector General of misrepresenting how well the administration has responded to his demands and presuming broader authority under the law than he has been granted. .
“Since SIGAR’s inception, USAID has produced hundreds of questions and answers, as well as thousands of pages of response documents, analysis, and spreadsheets describing dozens of programs that have been part of the U.S. government’s recovery effort in Afghanistan. We have consistently provided SIGAR answers,” said Jessica Jennings. , a USAID spokeswoman said, “We respond to her SIGAR requests frequently and regularly.”
A State Department spokesman said US reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, the heart of Sopko’s jurisdiction, came to a halt after the Taliban took over the government in August 2021.
The hearings, billed as a forum for scrutinizing the actions of the retreating Biden administration, were criticized as “ridiculously narrow” by the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Jamie Ruskin of Maryland.
Nonetheless, Sopko’s claims sparked bipartisan anger among lawmakers.
“Why is he being barred from doing what he has been legally accused of by this Congress and previous Congresses?” Florida Republican Rep. Byron Donalds said: I’m here.
Maryland Democratic Rep. Kwayi Muhme said, “This issue of insufficient accountability doesn’t know how any of us can defend it.
Congress created the oversight body in 2008, and President Barack Obama appointed Sopko to run it in 2012.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Mr. Sopko cited some recent highlights of the rivalry. He complained about the Biden administration’s refusal to request copies of documents related to the Doha Accords.
He also asked the State Department and USAID to answer “the simplest oversight questions we have,” such as identifying organizations receiving U.S. support for programs in Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrawal. Jennings called the claim “inaccurate.”
His complaints contrasted sharply with the testimony of the inspector general overseeing the State Department, the Pentagon and USAID who appeared with Sopko on Wednesday. Those officials told the commission they had no problems accessing the information.
The testimony comes as Republican-led committees in the House consider pulling the Biden administration out of Afghanistan, with Republicans taking aim at foreign aid programs. tighten the federal budget.
Kentucky Republican James R. Comer, chairman of the Oversight Committee, has hinted that aid to Afghanistan is not sacred either.
“The Biden administration is taking money out of the salaries of American truck drivers, American teachers, American farmers, American builders, and American soldiers and sending it to the same people who until recently shot and killed soldiers. I do,” Mr. Kummer said. “And the Biden administration has no interest in identifying waste, fraud and abuse related to Afghanistan.”
Sopko made it clear that his frustration was not with the aid itself, but with his ability to monitor funds being sent to Afghanistan.
“I’m not against humanitarian aid,” Sopko said. “If the aim is to help the Afghan people, we must have effective oversight to ensure that the money reaches those people.”
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