American taxpayer money could be propping up the Taliban government in Afghanistan, according to the federal government’s top watchdog.
"I cannot assure this committee or the American taxpayer we are not currently funding the Taliban," John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR), told Congress on Wednesday during an oversight hearing.
Sopko, as the head of the federal watchdog group, said the State Department and other Biden administration agencies are refusing to cooperate with his oversight efforts. Taxpayer funds, he said, are flowing into Taliban-controlled Afghanistan with little-to-no-oversight, indicating the terror group may have its hands on U.S. funds. "Other nefarious groups" operating in lawless Afghanistan, like ISIS, may also be able to access this cash, Sopko told the House Oversight Committee.
"We simply do not know since the Department of State, USAID, the U.N., and other agencies are refusing to give us basic information that we or any other oversight body would need to ensure safe stewardship of tax dollars," Sopko said. "More troubling, State and USAID have instructed their employees not to talk to SIGAR, and in one recent instance, State told one of its contractors not to participate in a SIGAR audit."
The Biden administration has been stonewalling SIGAR’s legally mandated oversight efforts since the bungled Afghanistan withdrawal in 2021. This includes the State Department’s blanket refusal to provide SIGAR with information on how up to $1 billion in taxpayer funds were spent inside the country since the Taliban retook control.
The Biden administration has also blocked congressional efforts to track this money. The U.S. Agency for International Development, for instance, injected at least $300 million in Afghanistan last year but could not tell Congress what safeguards were put in place to ensure these humanitarian funds were not stolen by the Taliban government.
There are also lingering questions about the $7.2 billion worth of military hardware the Biden administration abandoned inside Afghanistan during its hasty evacuation. Much of this equipment, lawmakers and oversight officials say, has likely been intercepted by the Taliban and other terrorist forces operating in the country. This includes "aircraft, guns, vehicles, ammunition, and specialized equipment," according to SIGAR.
Former defense and counterterrorism officials testified on Tuesday that Afghanistan is once again "a terrorist safe haven" that is capable of orchestrating attacks on America and Europe.