Friday 4 November 2022

Biden Admin Stonewalls Watchdog Seeking Accountability For $1 Billion Aid To Afghanistan Since Taliban Takeover

 The government body tasked with monitoring U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan said in a recent report it encountered insurmountable barriers from Biden administration agencies in its attempts to hold them accountable for over $1 billion in aid.

The Treasury Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) refused to comply with transparency requests from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) “in any capacity,” while the State Department selectively released information regarding the $1.1 billion in aid sent since August 2021, according to SIGAR. That violates SIGAR’s congressional mandate and undermines the American people’s interests, the organization claimed in a quarterly report, released Wednesday.

“SIGAR, for the first time in its history, is unable this quarter to provide Congress and the American people with a full accounting of this U.S. government spending due to the noncooperation of several U.S. government agencies,” the report said. “USAID and State legal counsels’ claim that SIGAR’s jurisdiction does not include such matters is not only contrary to the law, but a gross deviation from over 14 years of precedent set by three prior Administrations.”

The $1.1 billion assistance in question comes from the State Department and USAID for “food and cash support, nutrition, healthcare, protection for women and children and agricultural inputs,” according to a Sept. 23 USAID statement. 

“The State Department was selective in the information it provided pursuant to SIGAR’s audit and quarterly data requests, sharing high-level funding data but not details of agency-supported programs in Afghanistan,” the report said.

The agencies have thwarted other congressionally mandated SIGAR reviews regarding the collapse of Afghanistan’s government, ongoing humanitarian programs and State and USAID safeguards against the Taliban seizing aid intended for the Afghan people through noncooperation, the report alleged. For example, one of the audits described in the report found that the State Department did not appropriately account for up to $32 million in assets transferred to the former Afghan government, which are now believed to be in Taliban hands.

A State Department official told SIGAR that officials prohibited staff from communicating with investigators without approval from the State Department’s legal advisers, the report said.

SIGAR notified Congress of the agencies’ refusal to cooperate with the organization’s watchdog efforts, according to the report. Congress’ 2008 defense bill carved out the initial mandate for SIGAR “requiring the agencies to provide information and assistance upon request.”

The State Department claims that SIGAR’s mandate only applies to funds dedicated “for the reconstruction of Afghanistan,” an initiative that collapsed in August after the U.S. military pulled out of Afghanistan, and not to ongoing aid efforts, a State Department spokesperson told Politico.

“Treasury has complied with all legal requirements and shared information with SIGAR,” a Treasury Department spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

We’ve provided hundreds of pages of analysis, responsive documents, and spreadsheets, and we will continue to do so for any requests that fall under SIGAR’s statutory jurisdiction,” a USAID spokesperson told the DCNF.

SIGAR countered that, operationally, “reconstruction” aid encompasses that directed toward “humanitarian” and “development” support.

Most of the State and USAID programs outlined in this quarterly report are continuations of activities performed prior to August 2021, and State and USAID have not articulated how these programs have changed in practice,” the report said.

USAID and the Treasury Department did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.

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