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Taliban fighters parade a US military vehicle after the retreat of US troops. Photo: Wikicommons. Public Domain.

Did the Taliban pocket $2.5 billion in US ‘humanitarian’ aid?

The US State Department is preventing an accounting of more than $2.5 billion that has been handed out in Afghanistan.

The revelation comes from witnesses at a Congressional hearing and while the administration voices its intention to send similar aid to Gaza and the Palestinian Authority.

The Biden administration gave the aid to groups that work with the Taliban after the bungled 2021 retreat by American troops. Critics say no one knows where the money has gone, except the Taliban, whom the U.S. fought for over 20 years.

“The State Department has basically obfuscated, delayed reports … ordered their employees not to talk to us,” John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Nov. 14.

He also says Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West has ignored “countless entreaties to meet” to “share information, learn what’s going on and what their issues are so we can try to help them.”

“We do not know, period,” how humanitarian assistance is being used, said Sopko, who has led SIGAR since its inception. “But evidence from multiple sources, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), indicates that “the Taliban is diverting or otherwise benefiting” while intended beneficiaries are not.

“Many would like to believe we are aiding Afghan people while successfully bypassing the Taliban. This can be viewed as a useful fiction, as it ignores the fact that it’s impossible to entirely bypass the Taliban regime,” he said.

The U.S. allocates aid through international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and U.N. agencies because it doesn’t officially recognize the Taliban government.

All of those NGOs and agencies all are reporting widespread misappropriation by the Taliban, Sopko states.

“The Taliban pressures the U.N. and other NGOs to issue contracts to Taliban-affiliated companies, to partner with Taliban-affiliated NGOs, and to not partner with other NGOs. The Taliban have embedded intelligence officials in U.N. agencies to supervise their work, facilitate the interference and diversion, and censor reporting about it,” he said. “The Taliban also collect taxes and other fees from EU- and U.S.-funded implementing partners.”

While such pilferage is “not unique to the Taliban,” Sopko said, in this case, “diverted U.S. assistance may now be funding terrorist activities in addition to enriching the pockets of corrupt officials.”

“Our research confirms those who control the guns control the aid,” he said.

The report comes as the Biden Administration has promised to send hundreds of millions in taxpayer-funded aid to similar Palestinian groups in Gaza.

“The Taliban “are terrorists who impose theocratic edicts to oppress the Afghan people, abuse women, and steal humanitarian aid from starving Afghans,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul.

–Metro Voice and news services

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