Photo: US Senate Photographic Studio

SIGAR Chief: UN Cash Shipments to Afghanistan Reach ‘Bunch of Terrorists’

WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES – The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), John Sopko, says that the majority of UN cash shipments to Afghanistan end up in the hands of the Taliban.  

In an interview with ProPublica, a US-based news outlet, Mr. Sopko highlighted that the majority of the funds reaching Taliban-controlled Afghanistan via the UN in cash comes from US taxpayers.

“It’s going to a terrorist group. The Taliban are a bunch of terrorists,” he said.

After the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the unrecognized regime faced international restrictions and sanctions. As a result, the banking and financial systems were paralyzed, and foreign aid, which had been the main source of subsistence for Afghanistan’s economy, ceased to flow.

The situation prompted the UN and the international community to initiate a weekly shipment of US dollars in cash to the impoverished country.

In its latest report, SIGAR stated that since 2021, the UN has provided nearly $3 billion to Afghanistan. The US, by giving $2.6 billion, is by far the largest contributor to the humanitarian fund.

“More than $1.7 billion of that funding came from [the Department of] State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to support humanitarian activities implemented by PIOs and NGOs, including the UN, the World Bank, and the Colombo Plan,” part of SIGAR report reads. 

Although both the UN and the US Department of State had previously said that the cash shipments were deposited into a private bank in Kabul, away from the Taliban’s reach, the recent report by SIGAR suggests otherwise. According to the report, some of the funds end up at the central bank of Afghanistan, which is under Taliban control.

During a briefing to the UN Security Council earlier this month, Roza Otunbayeva, the head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, emphasized that the cash shipments helped stabilize the economy and deliver desperately needed medical care and food to the people of Afghanistan.

The cash shipments, she said, have “injected liquidity to the local economy that has in large part allowed the private sector to continue to function and averted a fiscal crisis.” 

In a response letter to the SIGAR report, the US Department of State clarified that while the US is not directly responsible for the cash shipments to Afghanistan, it will continue to ensure that they do not benefit the Taliban.

“We remain committed to providing critical, life-saving humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people. We will continue to monitor assistance programs and seek to mitigate the risk that U.S. assistance could indirectly benefit the Taliban or could be diverted to unintended recipients,” the letter said.

The US lawmakers and opposition groups to the Taliban, however, remain concerned about the Taliban’s infiltration and usage of the fund to benefit its militants and ultimately finance terrorism.

Earlier this month, US Senator Marco Rubio introduced a bill calling for the withdrawal of US aid to Afghanistan due to concerns about terrorism financing.

Senator Rubio’s bill would prohibit making any voluntary or assessed contributions to the UN for humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. It would also mandate that the US Secretary of State provide clarification to the US Houses, ensuring that the funds are not being funneled to the Taliban before the payments can be resumed. 

“American taxpayer dollars should not benefit terrorist organizations, like the Taliban. Unfortunately, we are seeing this scenario play out today, in real time.” Mr. Rubio told Fox News.

“Until we can be sure, we should withhold contributions to the U.N.,” he added.

Last year, in an interview with Fox News, Michael McCaul, the Chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs, similarly urged for the cessation of money sent to Afghanistan until assurances are received that the funds are not being channeled to the Taliban. 

“We need some assurance that this is going to go to the right hands and it’s going to help the women in Afghanistan. If the Taliban can’t assure us of that, I think we need to be prepared to cut that funding off as a stick rather than giving them just a carrot,” Mr. McCaul said.