Afghanistan receives nearly $2 billion in-cash assistance under Taliban rule
Photo: Da Afghanistan Bank

Nearly $11 Million of US Money Has Gone to the Taliban, SIGAR Reports

WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES – The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) says that US implementing partners in Afghanistan have paid almost $11 million to the Taliban administration in the form of taxes, fees, duties, or utility bills.

Although the United States fully ended its diplomatic and military presence in Afghanistan in 2021, Washington has continued to remain the largest donor to the country. The US has sent billions of dollars to Afghanistan in the form of humanitarian aid since the Taliban’s return to power in the aftermath of the American withdrawal.

In a report released on Monday, May 20, SIGAR highlighted that 38 out of 65 US implementing partners in Afghanistan have reported paying taxes, fees, duties, and utilities to the Taliban government. These payments have totaled $10.9 million, including $10.4 million in taxes, $346,839 for utilities, $176,596 in fees, and $9,215 in custom duties.

According to the report, the US implementing partners who fail to pay the required taxes, fees, and duties face severe consequences, including bank accounts freezing, office closures, and losing their licenses to operate in Afghanistan.

The US government watchdog expressed concerns about the direct collection of taxes, duties, and utilities from US government-funded activities, warning that it risks legitimizing the Taliban-controlled government in the eyes of the Afghan people. The Taliban uses aid delivery as propaganda, taking credit for the aid provided to the people of Afghanistan.

SIGAR had previously also warned of the US dollars benefiting the Taliban. According to the watchdog, the extremist group has been trying to infiltrate the aid disbursement sphere by diverting aid, creating fake NGOs or supporting those close to them in order to access foreign money. SIGAR’s recent report also highlights such activities that it claims disrupts the work of the US implementing partners on the ground.

“17 of 65 questionnaire respondents reported experiencing direct pressure from the Taliban, including involvement in and approval of program design and implementation; access to facilities or use of resources or vehicles; recruiting or hiring of certain Taliban-approved individuals; or diverting food and other aid to populations chosen by the Taliban.”

Following 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.

To address the dire situation, the UN initiated weekly cash shipments to the Taliban controlled Afghanistan. The US continues to be the largest contributor to humanitarian and development assistance for the people of Afghanistan, providing nearly $3 billion since August 2021.

Despite assurances from both the UN and the U.S. Department of State that the cash shipments are deposited into a private bank in Kabul, with measures to keep them out of the Taliban’s reach, concerns persist regarding possible infiltration by the Taliban and the potential misuse of the funds.

SIGAR says that a portion of the funds ultimately reaches the central bank of Afghanistan, which is under Taliban control. Moreover, the Taliban authorities establish NGOs to gain access to and potentially misuse these funds.

In his recent interview, John Sopko, head of SIGAR, mentioned that the majority of the UN cash shipments ultimately end up in the hands of the Taliban. “It’s going to a terrorist group. The Taliban are a bunch of terrorists,” Mr. Sopko said.

US lawmakers and opposition groups to the Taliban continue to express concern about Taliban infiltration and the use of funds to support militants, ultimately financing terrorism.

The Chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, and US Senator Marco Rubio have called for a cessation of money sent to Afghanistan due to concerns about Taliban infiltration and terrorism financing.

Chairman Michael McCaul, emphasized the need for assurances “that this [aid] going to go to the right hands,” while Senator Marco Rubio warned that “American taxpayer dollars should not benefit terrorist organizations, like the Taliban.”