On Wednesday, U.S. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) sent a letter to Deputy Secretary of State Richard Verma asking the Department of State to comply with requests from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), as SIGAR fulfills its congressionally mandated oversight on the U.S. withdrawal in Afghanistan.
Before Deputy Secretary State Verma’s confirmation in the Senate, the Department of State and USAID determined that ongoing cooperation with SIGAR on activities and funds provided for Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrawal in August 2021 was no longer necessary. Such a determination is for Congress–and Congress alone–to make. SIGAR retains its statutory obligation to conduct oversight of the taxpayer dollars provided to Afghanistan since the Taliban’s takeover of the country. The Department is likewise obligated to cooperate with SIGAR inquiries and requests for information.
In the letter sent today, the Senators write:
“It is our understanding that in recent months, some level of cooperation with SIGAR has resumed. However, by many accounts–including Special Inspector General Sopko’s testimony before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee on April 19, 2023–it remains uneven and does not resemble the full cooperation by the Department mandated by SIGAR’s authorizing statute and the Inspector General Act. SIGAR’s 2023 High-Risk List from April of this year details the ongoing risks to U.S. assistance and oversight in Afghanistan, made all the more challenging because of the State Department and USAID’s unwillingness to fully cooperate with SIGAR audits, inquiries, and requests for information since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“Americans are rightfully concerned that, because of this lack of cooperation, SIGAR cannot guarantee that U.S.-funded assistance to Afghanistan is not benefiting the Taliban. The Taliban has a horrific human rights record, particularly in the case of women and girls, and it is imperative that not a single U.S. tax dollar benefit them. The transparency provided by SIGAR’s oversight will, we hope, assuage these concerns.”
Dr. Paul and Sen. Kaine have requested that Deputy Secretary of State Verma respond in writing with a list of actions taken since his confirmation to improve cooperation with SIGAR’s work. The Senators are also requesting a briefing to provide a forum for members of their staff to discuss these actions. They also expect the Department to recommit to compliance with SIGAR’s requests for information, interviews, and other materials regarding ongoing State and USAID programs in Afghanistan.
You can read the full letter HERE.