The Taliban likely gained access to millions the US transferred to the Afghan government before the collapse, the watchdog says.



CNN

The Taliban likely gained access to tens of millions of dollars that the US transferred to the Afghan government before it collapsed, a US government watchdog has found.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which monitored US projects and spending during America’s longest war, said in its latest report that the Taliban likely accessed approximately $57.6 million in funds from the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and USAID.

“Once the money was transferred, US agencies lost visibility into these funds and relied on the Afghan government to disburse the funds for their intended purposes,” SIGAR wrote in the report.

The money was transferred before the collapse of the Afghan government on August 15, 2021 and the subsequent Taliban takeover. The vast majority of the funds came from the Department of Defense, which transferred $45.6 million, according to SIGAR, while the State Department and USAID transferred $2 million and $10 million, respectively.

“It is likely that some of the $57.6 million remained in accounts controlled by the Afghan government when the Taliban returned to power and took control of Afghan ministries, including the Ministry of Finance,” SIGAR found, and no there are plans to try to get them back. any of the money.

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the final act of which unfolded over four dramatic weeks in August 2021 and resulted in the deaths of 13 US service members, is likely to be the subject of a new scrutiny with Republicans who will take control of the House after the midterm elections. A year later, GOP members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee criticized the Biden administration for its lack of planning for the withdrawal based on its own investigation into the withdrawal.

But the Pentagon questioned whether it was even possible for the Taliban to access the money, given the collapse of the Afghan government and financial sector.

“Due to the collapse of the Afghan banking system and its accompanying digital infrastructure on August 15, it is extremely unlikely that the Taliban could have accessed any of these funds,” the Pentagon spokesman said , the lieutenant Col. Rob Lodewick. The money was transferred electronically and used for the salaries, training and expenses of the Afghan army.

In addition, the Pentagon says by law it did not have the ability to recover the money because it “did not have the legal authority to recover funds already transferred to another government,” Lodewick said.

SIGAR also questioned whether the Defense Department had an accurate accounting of the $7.1 billion in equipment the US left behind when it withdrew from Afghanistan last year. Due to problems tracking and managing equipment donated to the Afghan military over the years, SIGAR asked if there was potentially more equipment left behind.

“It is unclear whether the $7.1 billion figure reported to Congress is accurate,” SIGAR wrote in its report. The Department of Defense told SIGAR that the figure was based on the best data it had and that the number could be lower if more accurate information were available.

SIGAR accused the State Department of not providing dollar figures or lists of equipment transferred to Afghanistan that may have been left behind when the Taliban took over. SIGAR also claimed that the State Department provided “misinformation” about what might have been left in Afghanistan.

In response to SIGAR, the State Department wrote in an October letter that it continued to “engage and cooperate” during this assessment, rejecting any claims that it did not provide complete information.

“To be clear, the State Department and USAID remain committed to assisting SIGAR with its important audit function,” the agencies wrote in an earlier April letter, though they questioned whether SIGAR had the authority to to investigate given the end of the reconstruction mission in Afghanistan. .

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