President Joe Biden’s best efforts to foist blame on his predecessor for the outcome of the 2021 Afghanistan withdrawal were no match for the latest report and congressional testimony as the Inspector General contended the U.S. might be “currently funding the Taliban.”
Wednesday, along with the release of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan (SIGAR) 2023 High-Risk List report, the first since the withdrawal, SIGAR John Sopko appeared before Congress to testify. Sitting before the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, he noted that of the more than $5.5 billion in aid appropriated since 2021, some of that could be landing in the hands of terrorists.
“As I sit here today, I cannot assure this committee or the American taxpayer we are not currently funding the Taliban,” Sopko detailed.
“As I sit here today, I cannot assure this committee or the American taxpayer we are not currently funding the Taliban.”
Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko gives alarming testimony regarding U.S. funding in Afghanistan. pic.twitter.com/BfXl6F32Dq
— Oversight Committee (@GOPoversight) April 19, 2023
Responsible for reports released in 2014, 2017, 2019 and 2021, Sopko’s fifth High-Risk List regarded the risk pertaining to at least $8 billion in aid overall meant for the Afghan people that has been compromised by interference from the Taliban.
“The U.S. promised to resettle its allies in safety, but the United States is failing,” the report explained with only 20 percent of Special Immigration Visas having been issued as of September 2022. Despite promises from Biden, the report stated, “the United States has left most of its allies behind, and it will take a year, on average, until each family reaches safety.”
For the approximately 175,000 Afghans waiting for resettlement, that could be as much as three decades of waiting.
As previously reported, the Biden administration had attempted to shift the blame for the disastrous withdrawal on former President Donald Trump where the White House claimed: “President Biden’s choices for how to execute a withdrawal from Afghanistan were severely constrained by conditions created by his predecessor.”
Biden admin tries to shift blame on Trump for disastrous Afghanistan withdrawalhttps://t.co/UBnwpQCEnO
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) April 7, 2023
White House spokesman Ian Sams had compounded that position when he stated ahead of the hearing, “When President Biden made the decision to finally bring our troops home and end the 20-year war that cost us countless lives and tens of billions of dollars a year with no end in sight, he also committed to safely evacuating tens of thousands of Americans and to welcoming Afghan allies who worked alongside the U.S. throughout the war, including by surging resources to improve the processing of special visas that had been all but stopped by the Trump Administration.”
Committee chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) released his own statement ahead of Wednesday’s hearing disabusing that narrative and said, “This administration not only continues to provide excuses for the self-inflicted humanitarian and national security catastrophe, but senior officials are actively obstructing meaningful congressional oversight.”
To that point, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) raised concerns over problems with the intelligence community, leading Sopko to contend, “I don’t know who was telling which administration that things were going really well, but if you read our reports, and if you read some of the reports from my fellow IGs…you could not believe the Afghan government was going to survive, particularly when we withdrew our troops; particularly when we withdrew our air support; and particularly when we withdrew the contractors.”
Our own intelligence community contributed to the botched Afghanistan withdrawal.
According to SIGAR, we were paying salaries for 150,000+ Afghan soldiers who didn't even exist! pic.twitter.com/KLDKVrwbFD
— Rep Andy Biggs (@RepAndyBiggsAZ) April 19, 2023
“This was the worst kept secret in Washington about the capability of the Afghan government to survive,” the SIGAR continued before suggesting the administration had been fed a lie about 300,000 Afghan police where the real number was close to half. “We were paying their salaries, but they didn’t exist.”
Furthermore, despite Sams’ claims, the report argued that efforts toward the relocation process were hampered by “chronic understaffing, reliance on antiquated IT systems, and inadequate interagency coordination,” therefore implicating the current administration’s ongoing failure to address these problems as pivotal in the disastrous outcome.
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