House Oversight Committee Chairman condemns Biden administration’s lack of cooperation with SIGAR

In a letter addressed to various Biden administration officials on Tuesday, US Congress’s House Oversight Committee Chairman, James Comer, has strongly criticised the administration’s “unacceptable” lack of cooperation with the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

Comer said that SIGAR has been a “critical partner in helping the Committee assess issues related to security, humanitarian, economic, and governance assistance to the Afghan people”.

“The Administration’s refusal to cooperate with SIGAR has inhibited SIGAR’s ability to conduct independent, robust, and meaningful oversight. As U.S. taxpayer dollars continue to assist the people of Afghanistan, it is imperative SIGAR’s mission remain unobstructed.” Comer said.

During a recent testimony before the committee, Inspector General John Sopko, who heads SIGAR, highlighted the refusal of the State Department and USAID to fully cooperate with his office. Sopko stated that due to this lack of cooperation, he could not determine “the extent to which our government may be funding the Taliban and other nefarious groups with U.S. taxpayer dollars.” The failure of these key government agencies to cooperate has significantly hindered SIGAR’s efforts to provide comprehensive oversight.

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According to National Review, since the withdrawal of its forces in August 2021, the US has provided approximately $8 billion in assistance to Afghanistan, which includes $2.2 billion allocated for humanitarian and development efforts and $3.5 billion in Afghan Central Bank reserves transferred to the newly created Afghan Fund, aimed at stabilising Afghanistan’s economy.

The Biden administration has claimed that SIGAR no longer possesses oversight jurisdiction over humanitarian aid and development assistance. Comer, however, argues that this represents a departure from past practices, as SIGAR has received information and assistance from the State Department and USAID over the past 12 years. Comer raises questions about why the administration’s approach towards SIGAR has changed and whether it stems from SIGAR’s expressed concerns about the administration’s efficacy in Afghanistan.

After months of pressure, the State Department has recently agreed to  access to a select few House Foreign Affairs Committee members, including chairman Michael McCaul, to view classified cables related to the Afghanistan withdrawal.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has been carrying its own investigation on Afghanistan withdrawal.