On November 14, 2023, John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), testified at a hearing before the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives. He submitted a 16-page report to substantiate his testimony.
Sopko was asked to discuss oversight of ongoing U.S. government assistance to Afghanistan and to share his observations on whether and how U.S. funds have been provided to or diverted by the Taliban since the collapse of the Afghan government in August 2021. In his testimony (and in this report) he provides an update on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, how the United States is responding to it, and how that aid is benefiting the Taliban.
His findings indicate that the Taliban is diverting a considerable amount of U.S. assistance for its own benefit. Taliban officials routinely pressure U.S. partners to hire Taliban allies, contract with Taliban-affiliated companies, and dictate which Afghans should receive aid, demand payoffs, divert food to Taliban soldiers, and more.
Sopko has some unkind words to say about the U.S. Department of State (DoS). He says that State has declined to fully cooperate with SIGAR. His staff has faced significant challenges in obtaining documents and interviewing U.S. DoS officials. USAID has resumed cooperation with SIGAR and has responded to requests for information in a timely manner.
He reports that “there are no good choices for policy makers when providing humanitarian assistance in an environment like Afghanistan – only trade-offs.” The view that the U.S. and other donor countries believe that they are sending aid to the Afghan people and bypassing the Taliban is “useful fiction”. The only way to ensure no aid money reaches the Taliban is to eliminate all aid to Afghanistan. However, this would invite an economic freefall and famine for Afghanistan.
Testimony of John F. Sopko Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, SIGAR, November 14, 2023, PDF, 16 pages. https://www.sigar.mil/pdf/testimony/SIGAR-24-03-TY.pdf
Photo: USAID delivers food to Afghans. Photo by World Food Program Afghanistan.