Biden State Dept. Refusing To Cooperate With Afghanistan Inspector General Review

afghanistan inspector general
Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos Vazquez I, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

There seems to be some discontent between the State Department and the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), an agency that tracks corruption and waste in that country.

In a letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinkin, the SIGAR Director says that the Biden administration’s State Department and Agency for International Development (USAID) are refusing to cooperate with SIGAR’s congressionally-mandated review.

After the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan last year, Congress directed SIGAR to review many areas.

SIGAR was required by Congress to evaluate the performance of the Afghan forces leading up to the devastating collapse, but the Biden administration is arguing that SIGAR has no jurisdiction since the U.S. left Afghanistan. 

A Stalled Review

John Sopko, Director of SIGAR, makes a bold statement regarding State and USAID:

“Agency officials now appear to have adopted a premeditated position of obstruction.”

Allegedly, State and USAID members have ignored communications from SIGAR officials, going so far as to refuse access to individuals for interviews and shut down requests for SIGAR inspectors to travel internationally to conduct boots-on-ground research. 

Other areas of interest for SIGAR include information regarding the transfer of taxpayer dollars to the Taliban. Mr. Sopko is particularly concerned that they aren’t receiving ‘basic information’ when it comes to efforts that have been taken to guarantee programs supporting Afghan people aren’t going to the Taliban or Haqqani network. 

A State spokesperson responded to SIGAR’s allegations, stating:

“We have had concerns about how some of SIGAR’s requests for information relate to their statutory jurisdiction.”

Mr. Sopko responded in the letter, which of note was also sent to White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain:

“State and USAID legal counsels’ claim that SIGAR’s jurisdiction does not include such matters is not only contrary to the law, but a gross deviation from over 14 years of precedent set by 3 prior administrations.”

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Bad Blood?

This isn’t the first time there has been a dust-up between these two offices. For example, in a recent report from SIGAR, there was some disagreement on their assessment of the Afghanistan withdrawal.

The report said the deal initially made by the Trump administration in February 2020 and then honored by the Biden administration directly correlated to the Afghan military collapse. To be exact, the report blasted both administrations and stated their actions were the ‘catalyst’ and the ‘single most important near term factor’ in the collapse. 

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said of the report:

“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.”

Within the report, SIGAR also said the U.S. was:

“…disconnected from a realistic understanding of the time required to build a self-sustaining security sector.”

Unacceptable Losses

The desire for answers regarding the Afghanistan withdrawal stems from significant losses during the operation.

None so raw for many Americans and veterans than the 13 service members who lost their lives when a terrorist detonated a suicide vest. The terrorist was imprisoned before the withdrawal but had been released once the Taliban took over the detainment facility. 

Then there was the tragic drone strike launched from faulty military intelligence. The strike killed aid worker Zemeri Ahmadi and seven children. 

Finally, there is the question of the U.S. military equipment left behind. Of the $18.6 billion worth of equipment given to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, $7 billion was left behind. This equipment included aircraft, air-to-ground munitions, military vehicles, weapons, and communications equipment. 

RELATED: Surprise! Experts Worried Weapons Sent To Ukraine Might End Up In Enemy Hands

A Disturbing Trend Of Poor Assessments

Our military community’s effectiveness in assessing other forces’ ability to withstand attacks from adversaries is under intense scrutiny from Congress.

For example, Senator Angus King of Maine said:

“I am not naive enough to think that this is easy or straightforward. What I do believe is it’s damned important and that we have to do a better job. Within one year we had two pretty straight up failures in the opposite direction.”

Senator King is referring to the military’s belief that the Afghan army would stand up to the Taliban and that Ukraine would fall within days of the Russian invasion. Both assessments were grossly inaccurate.

The Taliban militants took control of Afghanistan within 11 days. And as we all know, Ukraine is still fighting back against the Russian invasion. 

The Department of Defense insists that while their assessments were wrong in Afghanistan, they weren’t wrong about Ukraine; they merely overestimated the Russian military capability. Which, in other words, means they were wrong.

RELATED: Has Our Government Learned Its Lesson From The Afghan Withdrawal?

What Else Are We Over (Or) Underestimating?

With two significant misjudgments in such a short time, the concern that our military has been ineffectual in keeping an eye on our near-peer adversaries is well-founded. Even as we were leaving Afghanistan, the military touted our ability to continue ‘over the horizon’ drone strikes against terrorist cells in Afghanistan.

However, a DOD Inspector General report states:

“Without a presence on the ground, the DOD relies on aviation assets to collect intelligence, surveil terrorist targets, and carry out airstrikes on terrorist targets. The DOD therefore requests over-flight agreements with another bordering nation to enter Afghan airspace.”

The only nation we have such an agreement with is Pakistan. So how many ‘over the horizon’ strikes have we made since the withdrawal? Zero.

Besides the ever-present threat of terrorist organizations, the other adversary that poses a threat to the United States is China. Our leading spy agencies claim they have a high degree of intelligence on China. However, when China launched a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile, it surprised everyone, including the DOD. 

RELATED: China v. U.S. War Game Highlights Disastrous Weaknesses In Our Military Might

Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois and a member of the House Intelligence Committee said of the last two failures and possible future military engagement with China, “I assume our military is going to school.”

We need to do much more than assume and ensure our government cooperates with reviews that can shed light on the dark reality that we may not be as capable as we think. 

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USAF Retired, Bronze Star recipient, outspoken veteran advocate. Hot mess mom to two monsters and wife to equal parts... More about Kathleen J. Anderson

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