Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
In June, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s office (SIGAR), dispatched letters to Secretary of State Blinken and Samantha Power complaining that the State Department and USAID were stonewalling its investigation of waste, corruption and terror cash.
“Two SIGAR audits are also being hindered by a lack of cooperation from State and USAID. The first evaluates your agencies’ compliance with the laws and regulations prohibiting transfers of funds to members of the Taliban and the Haqqani Network,” the letter to Power complained.
The Haqqani Network, which is allied with Al Qaeda, gained control of Kabul security and played a key role in preventing Americans from being evacuated and in the seizure of American military equipment left behind, even as the Biden administration described the Islamic terrorists responsible for the murder of Americans as “partners”. Despite claiming to no longer have ties to Al Qaeda, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s leader, was recently taken out at a Haqqani Network safe house. And, afterward, Haqqani members quickly evacuated Zawahiri’s family.
Any funding going to the Taliban, the Haqqanis and Al Qaeda must be investigated.
In a recent interview, Special Inspector General John Sopko noted that his office was aware of the, “close to $800 million that we’ve spent in Afghanistan since the collapse of the government last August”.
“I guess people don’t realize that,” he told reporters. “And I think people should realize that.”
Samantha Power’s policy of relying more heavily on local aid groups has made it that much more difficult to track where USAID’s money goes. And may be one reason that USAID has been stonewalling the Afghanistan watchdog.
Instead of turning over the information, Blinken and Power’s people have lawyered up.
“A State official has informed SIGAR that department staff have received internal direction to not engage with or speak to SIGAR without prior clearance from State legal counsel,” the open letter that was also sent to members of Congress revealed.
Illegally refusing to cooperate with an inspector general and then using State Department lawyers to impede any investigation in a matter involving possible terrorist financing is shocking.
It should be major news. Instead there’s been little coverage and less interest.
Beyond terrorism financing, the State Department and USAID have spent months stonewalling the inspector general’s office on matters such as “the settlement of Afghan refugees” and wouldn’t even reveal “funding information regarding its ongoing programs in Afghanistan, citing ongoing consultation with its legal counsel.” Instead of cooperating with the watchdog’s audit, USAID argued that it would use its “internal process to conduct cost audits.”
That is not the way organizations with clean hands behave.
Last month, Rep. Mike Turner sent a letter to the Biden administration asking him to order the State Department to begin cooperating with the Afghanistan investigation.
Senator Chuck Grassley sent one to Samantha Power warning that stonewalling the Afghanistan special inspector general is in violation of “federal law requiring federal employees to comply with IG investigations”.
“Instructing federal employees to obtain permission to cooperate with an IG investigation is clearly at odds with federal law,” Grassley wrote. “It is also reported that you have refused to permit SIGAR employees to travel internationally to conduct on-the-ground research.”
Samantha Power’s abuses were notorious during the Obama administration and like the behavior of most of the Obama vets, they have only become more shameless under Biden.
In response to a question about the State Department’s refusal to cooperate with the investigation, spokesman Ned Price made matters worse by replying that a SIGAR report on the collapse of the Afghan military “does not reflect the consensus view of the State Department or of the U.S. Government.”
The seeming admission by a Biden administration appointee that the State Department was retaliating against an inspector general for blowing the whistle on its disaster received no attention despite making the whole thing even more illegal.
Price is not just another government apparatchik, he was formerly Obama’s special assistant at the NSC and resigned when Trump came into office. His comments at the press conference and the lack of response from the Biden administration made it clear that he was speaking for the White House. By authorizing the stonewalling, the Biden administration was also undermining the oversight authority of the House and Senate. And was clearly doing so deliberately.
SIGAR recently dispatched its latest quarterly report to Congress noting that the Biden administration had authorized “transactions and activities involving the Taliban and members of the Haqqani Network so long as the transactions are for the official business of the U.S. government or certain international organizations, or for NGOs working on certain humanitarian projects.”
It also included the false claim by Biden’s DIA head made to Congress in May that “the Taliban have held to their word about not allowing al-Qaeda to rejuvenate.”
Al-Zawahiri’s death in a Haqqani safe house makes it clear that the Taliban remain aligned with Al Qaeda.
As the United States approaches $800 million in spending in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover, there is no way to know how much of the money is going to Islamic terrorists. And the State Department and USAID have violated federal law on obstructing audits and investigations while experiencing no consequences either in the form of legal sanctions or media pressure.
The Biden administration is determined to prevent any scrutiny of taxpayer money going to terrorists. And after having authorized such deals, it’s won’t let SIGAR peek over its shoulder.
The question is no longer what Biden, Blinken and Power are hiding, but how bad it is.