The U.S. government has funneled more than $1.1 billion in taxpayer dollars into Afghanistan since the Taliban took control of the country in August 2021 with minimal oversight or accountability according to the watchdog responsible for overseeing U.S.-led reconstruction efforts there.

A new report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) notes that the watchdog, for the first time since it was established in 2008, is unable “to provide Congress and the American people with a full accounting of this U.S. government spending due to the non-cooperation of several U.S. government agencies.” 

Those agencies include the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Treasury Department, which “refused to cooperate with SIGAR in any capacity” during the watchdog’s regular audit of reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. The State Department, which only shared “high-level funding data but not details of agency-supported programs,” still administers funds there.

“A State official has informed SIGAR that department staff have received internal direction to not engage with or speak to SIGAR without prior clearance from State legal counsel,’ the report states. 

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Despite having freely provided relevant information for over a decade, SIGAR reports that the State Department and USAID have now “refused” to give the watchdog important “information and assistance” for several congressionally-mandated reviews and audits.

Those included reviews and audits regarding the collapse of the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan and the associated risks to the Afghan people and State and USAID compliance with laws “prohibiting the transfer of funds to the Taliban,” among others. 

The refusal among U.S. government agencies to provide relevant data on Afghanistan reconstruction efforts to SIGAR constitutes a “direct violation” of the fiscal year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act that established SIGAR in the first place and the Inspector General Act of 1978, which established that federal agency leaders shall not prevent department IGs “from initiating, carrying out, or completing any audit or investigation.”

“SIGAR has notified Congress of this matter,” the report states.

According to SIGAR’s latest report, the U.S. government has spent approximately $146.55 billion in funds explicitly for reconstruction “and related activities” in Afghanistan from shortly after the U.S-led invasion through September 20, 2022, although USAID “refused to report its account balances” from June 30, 2022, onward.

The U.S. government spent an estimated $2 trillion executing the 20-year military campaign in Afghanistan, with the Defense Department responsible for roughly $849.7 billion in costs related to “warfighting and reconstruction,” according to a September 2021 DoD ‘Cost of War’ report cited by SIGAR.

By the end of the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan, the American public generally viewed the U.S. troop presence there unfavorably: a Pew Research Center poll conducted in late August 2021 found that 54% of Americans favored the withdrawal, while 69% said the U.S. “mostly failed in achieving its goals” during the occupation.

Despite this, the U.S. continues to pour money into Afghanistan — and, if SIGAR is correct, the American public will have no idea how many of their tax dollars are being spent on the aftermath of a failed nation-building effort overseas. 

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