Taliban likely accessed over $50 million when ex-government fell: SIGAR

Taliban fighters near a military vehicle at Kabul Airport on August 31, a day after full withdrawal of US and coalition forces from the airport.

US Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, said in a report released on Nov. 9 that the Taliban likely gained access to at least $57.6 million in funds from the United States at the time of the fall of the former government.

SIGAR stated in its report that the funding had been given to the republic government by the US Department of Defense, the State Department and USAID.

The watchdog also noted that although the Pentagon reported it left at least $7.1 billion in US-funded defense articles and equipment in Afghanistan when it withdrew its troops, the State Department provided limited, inaccurate, and untimely information about the abandoned equipment and funds.

The three agencies do not have plans to recover any of the funds or equipment identified, SIGAR said.

“It remains unclear whether the $7.1 billion figure reported to Congress is accurate,” SIGAR said in its report. The Defense Department told SIGAR the figure was based on the best data it had and that the number may actually be lower if more precise information were available.

The money was transferred before the collapse of the Afghan government on August 15, 2021, and the subsequent Taliban takeover of power. According to SIGAR, the vast majority of the funds came from the Defense Department, which transferred $45.6 million while the State Department and USAID transferred $2 million and $10 million, respectively.

“It is likely that some portion of the $57.6 million remained in Afghan government-controlled accounts when the Taliban returned to power and assumed control of Afghan ministries, including the Ministry of Finance,” SIGAR found, and there are no plans to try to recover any of the money.

The fall of the previous government

The US watchdog meanwhile assessed some factors that led to the fall of the republic government in Afghanistan in August 2021.

Recalling these reasons, SIGAR writes in its report that the former government failed to realize that the United States would “actually” leave Afghanistan.

SIGAR says the republic government was fundamentally unprepared to manage the fight against the Taliban as the US forces were leaving.

Another reason was the exclusion of the government from US-Taliban negotiations that SIGAR says weakened and undermined Ghani’s administration.

The US watchdog says another reason was the former government’s emphasis on the Taliban being integrated into the republic, undermining progress in the peace efforts.

It adds that another factor behind the fall of the republic was the Taliban’s lack of interest in compromise which was then emboldened by its deal with the US.

SIGAR also blames former president Ashraf Ghani for the fall of his government, saying he “governed through a highly selective, narrow circle of loyalists, destabilizing the government at a critical juncture.”

The centralization of power at a high level, widespread corruption in public offices and the struggle to gain legitimacy are other reasons SIGAR gave for the fall of the government.