The watchdog group auditing the flawed U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan said this week that top government officials are refusing to provide information or allow inspectors to travel abroad for research.
Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) Director John Sopko wrote a letter on Wednesday addressed to the heads of the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development, Secretary of State Tony Blinken, and USAID Administrator Samantha Power, saying that they have ignored communications from SIGAR and refused to make officials available for interviews, among other issues.
"Historically, State and USAID officials have supported SIGAR’s mission and honored my office’s requests," Sopko wrote, according to Politico. "Inexplicably, this long track record of cooperation seems to have abruptly ended. Agency officials now appear to have adopted a premeditated position of obstruction."
Sopko also asked Blinken and Power to tell officials to "cease their illegal obstruction of SIGAR’s oversight work."
Sopko added: "The coordinated efforts by State and USAID officials to deny SIGAR access to information and assistance are unprecedented. The billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars that have been spent and continue to be spent in support of the Afghan government and the Afghan people warrant independent oversight, and the law requires it."
The hectic pullout of U.S. troops from Afghanistan earlier in the Biden administration drew intense criticism on both sides of the aisle, with President Joe Biden opting not to leave a residual force. The Afghan National Security Force quiickly collapsed, and the resurgent, repressive Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021. The withdrawal, which also saw U.S. casualties amid suicide attacks, has been seen as a black eye for the incumbent in the foreign policy realm.
A spokesperson for the State Department directed Politico to a letter from April 25 in response to a request for comment, adding, "State and USAID are committed to assisting SIGAR with its important auditing and oversight role. [However,] we have had concerns about how some of SIGAR’s requests for information relate to their statutory jurisdiction."
They also said that the State Department was not asked for input on the report or given the chance to review a draft before its finalization, as is typical.
"Many parts of the U.S. government, including the State Department, have unique insights into developments in Afghanistan last year that were not captured in the report. And we don't concur with many aspects of the report," the spokesperson, Ned Price, told Politico.
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