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Biden admin blocking federal audit of US taxpayer funds still going to Afghanistan, auditor says

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
July 07, 2022

U.S. taxpayer dollars are still flowing to Afghanistan nearly a year after the U.S.-backed Afghan government collapsed and the U.S. State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have refused to tell a federal auditor where the money is now going.

John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) sent a letter on June 22 to leading Democrat and Republican lawmakers on the House and Senate committees, in which he said Secretary of State Antony Blinken and USAID Administrator Samantha Power have repeatedly refused to provide information about the conditions that led to the collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan government, the State Department and USAID’s compliance with laws prohibiting U.S. funds from flowing to the Taliban and information about ongoing programs in Afghanistan.

Included in Sopko’s letter to lawmakers was a letter he also sent to Blinken and Power on June 22. Sopko told Blinken and Power that SIGAR began evaluations into the collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan government on Oct. 1, 2021, and after submitting initial information requests, SIGAR has issued more than 20 additional follow-up requests. Sopko said that after all these requests over a six-month period, lawyers for the State Department and USAID requested clarification about the requests and said the information Sopko was seeking is “outside SIGAR’s current mandate.”

Sopko told Blinken and Power that the type of information he was seeking has been requested through SIGAR since the auditor’s office was established by Congress in 2008.

“No federal agency has challenged SIGAR’s authority to conduct oversight of such programs until now,” Sopko wrote to Blinken and Power. “State and USAID 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.”

“Billions of dollars have been spent in Afghanistan and billions more continue to be spent. Congress and American taxpayers deserve to know why the Afghan government collapsed after all that assistance, where the money went, and how taxpayer money is now being spent in Afghanistan,” Sopko wrote. “It is my hope that the Secretary and the Administrator will follow the example of their predecessors across administrations and resume cooperating with SIGAR so that my staff can continue to audit and review these activities.”

The letter was sent to House and Senate Appropriations, Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees as well as the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Sopko concluded his letter to Blinken and Power by stating, “As the U.S. government continues adding to the billions of dollars that it has already spent on the Afghan government and people since 2002, U.S. taxpayers deserve objective information concerning where their money is going and to whom it is being given. It is my sincere hope that you will follow the example of your predecessors across administrations and affirm the duty of
State and USAID officials to comply with SIGAR’s requests for information and assistance.”