The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko has released the 59th Quarterly Report to Congress examining the $146.81 billion US reconstruction effort in Afghanistan.
Below are some of the key points found in the report. (Please note: The page numbers refer to the report page numbers.)
- Despite the Taliban takeover, the United States remains the largest donor to the Afghan people and has appropriated more than $2.1 billion since August 2021. The United States is also the single largest donor to the humanitarian response in Afghanistan. (Page 59)
- Neither the State Department nor SIGAR currently know exactly how much revenue Taliban-controlled ministries may be collecting from fees and other payments from UN agencies or NGOs. The ministry of finance has curtailed its quarterly reporting which, prior to the Taliban takeover, included more granular information regarding ministries’ expenditures and revenues. Similarly, the UN does not provide State, USAID, or SIGAR detailed accounts of its expenditures, nor that of its partners. (Page 63)
- On March 13, Congressman Michael T. McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), formally directed SIGAR to assess the extent to which “U.S. funds intended to respond to a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan have been provided to the Taliban to pay taxes, fees, import duties, or for the purchase or receipt of permits, licenses, or public utility services since August 2021.” In addition to Taliban access to U.S. funds, HFAC requested that SIGAR examine the operations, policies, and expenditures of the Fund for the Afghan People (Afghan Fund) and determine whether adequate safeguards have been put in place for protecting the disbursements from waste, fraud, abuse, and diversion to the Taliban. (Page 64)
- The UN said Taliban interference in NGO activities rose dramatically, recording the highest number of operational interferences and access constraints in December 2022. In January, there were 133 access incident reports, which included one aid worker injured, 15 aid workers arrested, Taliban authorities searching an NGO, and 42 incidents where women could not access work. On April 11, the UN announced that its 3,300 employees in Afghanistan will not report to work until May 5 so the organization can perform an operational review following the Taliban decree banning Afghan women from working for the UN. (Pages 91 and 94)
- This quarter, USAID informed SIGAR that it completed the USAID-funded, independent assessment of Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), Afghanistan’s central bank. The assessment focused on DAB’s anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism controls, banking oversight, and payments departments; however, USAID said the results were not finalized as of mid-April. USAID said no decision has been made on whether the U.S. government will fund ongoing third-party monitoring of DAB, and, if so, which entity would be responsible. (Page 61)
- On February 16, the Board of Trustees of the Fund for the Afghan People (Afghan Fund) held its second meeting, where it took steps to further operationalize the Fund and discussed necessary steps to begin disbursement of funds and potential options for supporting monetary stability through such disbursements. The Afghan Fund was established as a Swiss charitable foundation in the last quarter of 2022. The United States last year transferred $3.5 billion in Afghan central bank assets previously frozen in the United States to the Fund, which may be used to recapitalize the Afghan central bank, and keep Afghanistan current on debt payments to international financial institutions to preserve its eligibility for development assistance. According to the State Department, the Afghan Fund is “explicitly not intended to make humanitarian disbursements.” (Page 60)
- Treasury communicated to DAB officials that the central bank must demonstrate that “it is free from political interference, has appropriate anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism controls in place, and has undertaken a third-party needs assessment and onboarded a third-party monitor” before the United States will consider supporting the return of the Afghan Fund’s assets to DAB. (Page 62)
- In mid-March, the Taliban announced Mullah Hidayatullah Badri, also known as Gul Agha Ishakzai, as the new governor of DAB. A former Taliban finance minister and key advisor to late Taliban leader Mullah Omar, he is accused of raising funds for suicide attacks in Kandahar and distributing money among Taliban fighters and their families. Since July 2010, he has been sanctioned by the UN Security Council, and named a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the Treasury’s Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. (Page 62)
- In March, the UN released its 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), following a two-month delay due to the Taliban’s ban on female employment with NGOs. As part of the new HRP, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) seeks $4.6 billion to assist 23.7 million Afghans with lifesaving and protection assistance in 2023, as some UN programs face funding shortages. In March, the UN World Food Programme announced it had cut some food programs due to lack of funds. (Page 59)
- The 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan is not fully funded. As of April, the UN has raised only $359.1 million of the $4.6 billion the UN says it requires, indicating that the Taliban’s policies on women, competing priorities, and donor fatigue may be drawing resources away from Afghanistan. (Page 94)
- In its 2023 Humanitarian Plan, UN OCHA aims to reach more than 23.7 million people: 21.7 million vulnerable people with humanitarian needs, 1.1 million cross-border returnees, 691,000 internally displaced people, 200,000 shock-affected people, and 52,000 refugees and asylum seekers. This represents an 8% increase in reach from 2022. (Page 93)
- Following the Taliban’s December 2022 edict banning women from employment with NGOs, a U.S. interagency review process began to determine which U.S. programs could be suspended if women are unable to participate in the delivery of assistance. USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) reported that the review is still ongoing but many of BHA’s partners communicated acceptable workarounds to ensure female aid workers can continue participating in humanitarian assistance. State said international donors plan to coordinate the results of their reviews of the impact of the Taliban’s decisions and discuss their options in August. (Page 60)
- An estimated four million people will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2023, including 875,227 children with Severe Acute Malnutrition and more than 2.3 million with Moderate Acute Malnutrition, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification Analysis. (Page 96)
- UN OCHA predicts that Afghanistan’s public health systems will likely continue experiencing infrastructural and financial collapse in 2023, at the expense of Afghans who will either spend more for care or delay care altogether. An expected 17.6 million people will need medical assistance this year, including 8.3 million children. The UN reports that 13.2 million people across all 34 provinces live in areas where primary health care services are not accessible. (Page 98)
- UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports, “the beginning of 2023 in Afghanistan has been marked by a harsh winter that pushed vulnerable populations, already overwhelmed by multiple crises, to the brink.” An estimated 10 million Afghans needed emergency winter assistance in 2022–2023, but aid delivery has been hindered by the Taliban’s restrictions on women’s NGO employment. UN spokesperson Peter Kessler called the December decree a “catastrophic disruption.” (Page 96)
- This quarterly report includes a new Table (Table F.2) in the Status of Funds Section which provides a more detailed look at funds remaining for possible disbursement. The table provides a clearer picture for these remaining funds and whether they have been appropriated, allocated, or obligated for Afghanistan programs. (Page 35)
This latest quarterly report tracks ongoing US aid to the Afghan people and provides updates on the deteriorating humanitarian situation. It summarizes SIGAR’s oversight work and updates developments in U.S. assistance and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan from January 1–March 31, 2023.
During this reporting period, SIGAR issued 12 audits, evaluations, and other products assessing US assistance and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.
Criminal investigations resulted in one guilty plea, two sentencings, and a $100,000 criminal forfeiture, according to the SIGAR.
Read full report here.
Read report by section here.
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Ann Furr says
This is nothing new. We spent a lot in Iraq, and now spending even more in Ukraine.. none of it is accountable
Beverly Teboe says
If there was accountability people might be able to see where all the money was actually going - and that into the bank accounts of those orchestrating this crap.