Republicans Seek Briefing from Afghanistan Reconstruction Watchdog
“It is unclear if continued U.S. assistance would find its way into the hands of terrorists and be used to finance attacks on Americans,” GOP members wrote.
Republican lawmakers are seeking a briefing from the Afghanistan Reconstruction watchdog by August 26 about the situation in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover on Sunday.
Reps. James Comer, R-Ky., ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., ranking member of the committee’s national security panel, sent a letter, shared with Government Executive, to Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko on Thursday asking for a member-level briefing.
Since 2001, the United States has spent about $837 billion on warfighting and $145 billion on reconstruction efforts in a war that has claimed the lives of 2,443 Americans and 1,144 allied troops, as well as 66,000 Afghan troops and more than 48,000 Afghan civilians, as documented by SIGAR.
“All of this work crumbled in a matter of weeks, culminating with the Taliban regaining control of Afghanistan for the first time in nearly two decades,” wrote the lawmakers. “It is vital to understand what happened in Afghanistan, how previous U.S. assistance was used, how much previously appropriated assistance remains unobligated, and, frankly, if ongoing assistance is legal and in the best interest of the U.S.”
The Taliban completed its takeover on Sunday as the United States was in the process of withdrawing troops by the August 31 deadline announced by President Biden in April. As the situation deteriorated over the weekend, the Pentagon deployed thousands of additional troops to the country to help with evacuations.
SIGAR, which was established in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2008 to audit and investigate spending on reconstruction projects in the country, released a new report on Tuesday that paints a largely bleak picture of the United States’ effort in Afghanistan over the last two decades.
“While there have been several areas of improvement—most notably in the areas of health care, maternal health, and education—progress has been elusive and the prospects for sustaining this progress are dubious,” said the report. “The U.S. government has been often overwhelmed by the magnitude of rebuilding a country that, at the time of the U.S. invasion, had already seen two decades of Soviet occupation, civil war, and Taliban brutality.”
In a recent interview with Government Executive, Sopko, who has been in his position since July 2012, said, “there's a lot of money to keep us going” due to funds in the pipeline not spent as well as the possible funds the Biden administration proposed in its budget request for fiscal 2022.
“Since President Biden did not condition his withdrawal on the Taliban severing ties with al-Qaeda and other terror groups, it is unclear if continued U.S. assistance would find its way into the hands of terrorists and be used to finance attacks on Americans,” said the lawmakers. “This is a question that must be answered.”
Besides this letter, Comer and Grothman, along with 18 other Republicans sent a letter to Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, on Wednesday asking for a hearing on the situation in Afghanistan.
Also, the chairs (all Democrats) of the Senate Armed Services, Intelligence, and Foreign Relations committees and House Foreign Affairs Committee have announced plans to investigate or hold hearings on the situation in Afghanistan.