White House won’t say how it spent $1 billion in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan

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The State Department has said it will not comply with an investigation by a government watchdog into how more than $1 billion in US public funds have been spent in Afghanistan since the group Taliban terrorist has regained control of the country.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a government watchdog established in 2008 to monitor the US’s $146 billion reconstruction project in the war-torn country, announced that for the first time in its history, the State and Treasury Departments failed to comply with its investigations.

“SIGAR, for the first time in its history, is unable this quarter to provide Congress and the American people with a full account of these US government expenditures due to non-cooperation by US agencies,” revealed the watchdog in its latest report to Congress. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which provides U.S. aid, “and the Treasury Department have refused to cooperate with SIGAR in any capacity, while the State Department has been selective in the information it provided in accordance with SIGAR’s audit and quarterly data requests.”

SIGAR says the Biden administration’s refusal to cooperate with its investigation into the allocation of $1.1 billion in public funds since the Taliban regained power constitutes a “direct violation” of the group’s congressional mandate. surveillance. The administration is also withholding evidence related to the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government, as well as information about whether the State Department is following laws prohibiting the transfer of US funds to the Taliban. “No federal agency has so far challenged SIGAR’s authority to oversee such programs,” the watchdog agency said.

The standoff is the latest controversy surrounding the Biden administration’s failed evacuation from Afghanistan in 2021, which left 13 Americans dead and thousands more stranded in the Taliban-controlled country. The administration has also blocked congressional investigations into the matter, including investigations into its decision to abandon about $7 billion worth of advanced US military equipment inside Afghanistan.

“After more than a decade of cooperation, the state and USAID have for months refused to provide SIGAR with the information and assistance needed for several congressional-mandated audits and reviews” of “the collapse of the government supported by the United States in Afghanistan,” the report said. said. These agencies also retain information relating to their “compliance with laws and regulations prohibiting the transfer of funds to the Taliban”.

A State Department official further “informed SIGAR that Department personnel had received an internal instruction not to engage with or speak to SIGAR without prior approval from State Counsel,” a directive that violates laws intended to protect government whistleblowers and protect SIGAR’s investigative power, according to the report.

The State Department maintains that SIGAR is beyond its jurisdiction and that it is not legally bound to comply with any requests for information regarding the $1.1 billion allocated for humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan. A July 8 letter sent to SIGAR by the State Department outlines these concerns, according to a copy obtained by the Free tag.

“Since the Taliban takeover in August 2021, the United States has ceased providing assistance for the purposes of the reconstruction of Afghanistan,” the State Department told SIGAR, arguing that the group’s mandate Monitoring is narrowly tailored to only projects falling into this category. “Since August 2021, the United States has dramatically changed the nature and scope of its activities in Afghanistan to focus instead on humanitarian assistance and targeted assistance designed to help meet basic human needs and avert economic collapse. complete and imminent.”

A SIGAR official confirmed that the agency had received the letter but declined to comment further on the matter.

A Treasury Department spokesperson would not comment on SIGAR’s accusations of obstruction, saying only that it “complyed with all legal requirements and shared information with SIGAR.”

SIGAR, in its report, disputes the State Department’s claims about its mandate, writing that most of the aid programs still underway “are a continuation of activities carried out before August 2021”, when the Taliban took control. from Afghanistan. To date, SIGAR states that “the state and USAID have not explained how these programs have changed in practice.”

Congress, the watchdog group adds, “was clear when it granted SIGAR jurisdiction in its 2008 enabling legislation over all reconstruction spending in Afghanistan, including development and humanitarian assistance.”

SIGAR has reported on humanitarian aid projects since 2008 and has included these projects in each of its 57 quarterly reports to Congress.

Asked about the dispute earlier this month, State Department spokesman Ned Price made it clear that US officials would block SIGAR’s surveillance efforts.

“Our position is that, with the exception of certain specific funds, SIGAR’s statutory mandate is limited to funds available for, in quotes, ‘the reconstruction of Afghanistan,'” Price said. “SIGAR’s current work does not appear to fall within its statutory mandate to oversee funds for, in quotes, ‘the reconstruction of Afghanistan’.”

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