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State Department and USAID Accused of Withholding info on Botched Afghanistan Withdrawal

Afghan people climb atop a Kam Air plane as they wait at the airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan's 20-year war.Wakil Kohsar / AFP via Getty Images
Afghan people climb atop a Kam Air plane as they wait at the airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war.Wakil Kohsar / AFP via Getty Images

The head of the watchdog agency overseeing America’s mission in Afghanistan has accused the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development of failing to cooperate with its requests for information.

John Spoke, the head of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, made the allegations in a letter, which was obtained by the Washington Examiner, sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, USAID Administrator Samantha Power, and members of Congress on Wednesday.

The two agencies are “unreasonably refusing to provide information and assistance requested by SIGAR,” he said in the letter, adding that despite historically supporting their mission, their offices “now appear to have adopted a premeditated position of obstruction.”

The special investigation specifically mentioned reviews pertaining to the collapse of the U.S.-backed government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, State and USAID’s compliance with laws and regulations regarding the prohibition of transferring funds to the Taliban, and the current humanitarian programs supporting Afghan civilians.

Sopko, in the letter, accused the two agencies of “coordinating to obstruct SIGAR audit” and “in some cases, simply ignored our communications, refused to make staff available for interviews, or refused to permit SIGAR to travel internationally to conduct research on the ground — all of which I have determined are unreasonable and in disregard of the responsibilities of my office.”

Both agencies pushed back in response to the letter, according to Politico.

A USAID spokesperson told the Washington Examiner that the agencies “are committed to assisting SIGAR” and have for years, but “since receiving SIGAR’s October letter, we have had concerns about how some of SIGAR’s requests for information relate to their statutory jurisdiction.”

The spokesperson also passed along an email from the agencies’ lawyers to SIGAR’s council questioning whether recent requests were within its mandate.

State Department spokesman Ned Price addressed the situation during a briefing Wednesday.

Price, when asked about whether the department is continuing to cooperate with SIGAR, referenced a recent SIGAR report on the collapse of the Afghan Security Forces and said: “Our view is that the report does not reflect the consensus view of the State Department or the U.S. government, for that matter. 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.”

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