In the wake of sending $8 billion in foreign aid to Afghanistan in the nearly two years since the disastrous U.S. Military withdrawal, the Biden administration is being accused of not cooperating with congressional oversight efforts. On Tuesday, House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) wrote a letter to Biden administration officials to cooperate with oversight from Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
The letter was addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and USAID Administrator Samantha Power. The committee has accused the State Department, US Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Treasury of obstructing Special Inspector General John Sopko, by prohibiting interviews with employees and failing to provide requested documents.
The Biden Admin is obstructing the Inspector General’s Afghanistan investigations.@RepJamesComer is demanding their full cooperation with IG Sopko, who has previously testified that U.S. taxpayer dollars are falling into the hands of the Taliban. https://t.co/Bn7gnNEB7b
— Oversight Committee (@GOPoversight) May 23, 2023
During an Oversight Committee hearing in April, Sopko testified that U.S. taxpayer dollars are reaching the Taliban, and that the Biden Administration is impeding SIGAR’s mandated reporting. Sopko testified that his office uncovered evidence of the Taliban generating income through customs charges on aid shipments, taxation of Non-Government Organizations, and diverting funds away from what the Taliban deems to be “hostile groups” towards their preferred entities. Without cooperation from the State Department and USAID, determinations cannot be made about how much of the $8 billion in US-provided funds have ended up in the hands of the radical Islamist regime.
Chairman Comer wrote:
The Committee on Oversight and Accountability is investigating the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the evacuation of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies from Afghanistan. One critical partner in helping the Committee assess issues related to security, humanitarian, economic, and governance assistance to the Afghan people has been the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). SIGAR has notified the Committee on multiple occasions of the Department of State’s, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s, the Department of Defense’s, and the U.S. Department of Treasury’s refusals to cooperate with SIGAR’s ongoing evaluations. This lack of cooperation is unacceptable. The Administration will neither avoid SIGAR’s important oversight work nor flout accountability to the American people for its catastrophic failures in Afghanistan.
The Biden administration argues that SIGAR no longer has oversight jurisdiction over humanitarian aid and development assistance, a deviation from the previous scope. SIGAR was established by Congress in 2008 to audit US reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, with an emphasis on preventing waste, fraud, and abuse. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 explicitly states that SIGAR should provide quarterly reports on U.S. taxpayer-funded assistance to Afghanistan.
In a press release, the Committee wrote:
The Biden Administration’s claims that SIGAR no longer has oversight jurisdiction over humanitarian aid and development assistance is a radical departure from its own past practice.
Comer asserted that SIGAR was authorized by Congress, and that it is the legislative branch’s authority to determine SIGAR’s jurisdiction and scope of mission:
The Administration’s refusal to cooperate with SIGAR has inhibited SIGAR’s ability to conduct independent, robust, and meaningful oversight. As U.S. taxpayer dollars continue to assist the people of Afghanistan, it is imperative SIGAR’s mission remain unobstructed. Congress has granted SIGAR authority to carry out this mission of providing whole-of-government oversight, and it is Congress’s authority alone to determine SIGAR’s jurisdiction and scope of mission. Therefore, the Committee urges the Administration to cooperate fully with SIGAR on any prior, ongoing, or future requests for information, audits, evaluations, oversight, interviews, or any other tool SIGAR deems necessary to complete its mission.
The Biden administration’s obstruction of the investigation into funds after catastrophic failures in Afghanistan has left U.S. taxpayers without accountability or guarantees that foreign aid is not benefitting adversarial terrorist organizations.