US Lawmakers Question Whether Aid Is Benefiting Taliban

washington — U.S. officials overseeing assistance to Afghanistan told U.S. lawmakers Thursday that aid is rigorously monitored to prevent financial benefits from reaching the Taliban.

“We remain extremely vigilant against attempts to divert and interfere with assistance delivery. USAID takes its duty as a steward of U.S. taxpayer dollars extremely seriously, and we hold implementing partners to the highest standards,” said Michael Schiffer, assistant administrator, Bureau for Asia, U.S. Agency for International Development.

Assurances from the U.S. State Department and USAID came after the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in a January 8 letter that there were still unanswered questions about $3.5 billion in funds controlled by the Switzerland-based Afghan Fund.

SIGAR told Congress that more than a year after the Afghan Fund’s creation it had not made any disbursements for its intended purpose of benefiting the Afghan people.

According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “an estimated 23.7 million people — more than half of Afghanistan’s population — will require humanitarian assistance to survive in 2024.”

The Taliban took back control of Afghanistan in August 2021 following the chaotic U.S. evacuation of Kabul that ended the 20-year conflict. The United States has provided more than $2 billion in aid since that takeover.

“The Taliban is benefiting more than ever from U.S. taxpayer dollars,” said Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “They steal from NGOs to enrich their fighters and to solidify their power.”

McCaul said the Taliban demand payoffs from NGOs, create fake NGOs to receive aid money and embed Taliban officials within U.N. agencies.

An October 2023 SIGAR report found evidence of that infiltration, leading to lawmaker concerns about potential corruption in the Afghan Fund.

McCaul said Thursday that SIGAR has 30 outstanding requests awaiting an answer from the State Department regarding the disbursement of aid in Afghanistan.

Thomas West, special representative for Afghanistan and deputy assistant secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the U.S. State Department, told the House panel that the State Department has spent more than 13,000 hours cooperating with SIGAR on its requests about aid oversight.