Taliban grabbed up to $57 million in US funds for toppled Afghan government

Afghanistan
Taliban fighters celebrate the first anniversary of the withdrawal of US-led troops from Afghanistan, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

Taliban grabbed up to $57 million in US funds for toppled Afghan government

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When the Taliban took over the government of Afghanistan in August 2021, the group may have seized more than $50 million in funds provided by the U.S., according to a recent report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

The Department of Defense provided $45.6 million, the State Department gave $2 million, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provided $10 million in 2021 before the Taliban came to power and the U.S. ceased providing aid, per SIGAR’s report, which was released last week.

STATE DEPARTMENT AND USAID ACCUSED OF WITHHOLDING INFO ON BOTCHED AFGHANISTAN WITHDRAWAL

“Once the money was transferred, U.S. agencies lost visibility over those funds and relied on the Afghan government to disburse funds for their intended purposes,” SIGAR wrote in the report. “It is likely that some portion of the $57.6 million remained in Afghan government-controlled accounts when the Taliban returned to power.”

The amount is a small portion of the more than $17.3 billion in on-budget assistance that the U.S. Departments of Defense and State and USAID provided to Afghanistan from 2002 through August 2021.

DOD reported to Congress last March that roughly $7.1 billion of transferred defense articles and equipment remained in Afghanistan at the time the Taliban overthrew the Ghani government just weeks ahead of the U.S. military’s impending withdrawal, though SIGAR expressed doubt in the accuracy of that figure citing previous occurrences of DOD being unable to adequately track its equipment.

“The department has struggled for years with accurately accounting for the equipment it provided to the ANDSF. Since at least 2009, SIGAR and DOD Office of Inspector General (DOD IG) have published reports noting accountability shortfalls and issues with [the] DOD’s processes for tracking equipment in Afghanistan,” the report continued.

The State Department did not identify any equipment it transferred to Afghanistan that was there when the Taliban rose to power, though, throughout SIGAR’s evaluation, the department “provided erroneous information and did not provide information from all bureaus that left behind equipment and facilities to which the Taliban may now have access.”

In a separate recent report to Congress, SIGAR alleged USAID and the Treasury Department “refused to cooperate with SIGAR in any capacity, while the State Department was selective in the information it provided pursuant to SIGAR’s audit and quarterly data requests.”

“The State Department and USAID refused to answer nearly all of SIGAR’s quarterly data requests regarding agency-supported programs in Afghanistan this quarter,” the report said. “State and USAID claimed without basis that U.S. programming in Afghanistan is unrelated to reconstruction activities.”

State Department spokesman Ned Price defended his agency’s actions, telling the Washington Free Beacon, “Our position is that, except for certain specific funds, SIGAR’s statutory mandate is limited to funds available for, quote, ‘the reconstruction of Afghanistan. SIGAR’s current work does not appear to fall under its statutory mandate to oversee the funds for, quote, ‘the reconstruction of Afghanistan.'”

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Another recent SIGAR report released this week identified six key factors that contributed to the collapse of the Ghani government. Some of these were that the Afghan government did not actually expect the U.S. military to depart even as multiple presidents mentioned that goal and then failed to withdraw, the exclusion of the Afghan government in the U.S.-Taliban talks, the Afghan government’s insistence that the Taliban be integrated into the republic, and the Taliban’s subsequent unwillingness to compromise all contributed to the governing body’s rapid collapse.

The report also put some blame on the U.S.-backed government, identifying that Ghani’s decision to govern through a small circle of loyalists was destabilizing at a critical time and that the high level of centralization prevented them from being able to end corruption and obtain legitimacy.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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