USAID report finds Taliban has ‘infiltrated’ UN aid agencies

A report commissioned by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) confirms that United Nations aid is being systematically diverted through Taliban hands, and that UN agencies have been “effectively infiltrated” by the regime.

The report, which has not yet been released publicly, but which has been seen by Foreign Policy, also reveals that the Taliban sees UN aid as another revenue stream.

The “Taliban appear to view the UN system as yet another revenue stream, one which their movement will seek to monopolize and centralize control over,” the report says.

Foreign Policy states that the report casts doubt on the UN’s ability to control the flow of aid, including about $2 billion from the United States alone since Aug. 15, 2021, when the former republic government collapsed.

The report was submitted to USAID in May by the US Institute of Peace, and according to Foreign Policy, donor reluctance, despite ongoing appeals by the UN for money, is understandable given the contents of the report.

A number of claims are also apparently debunked in the report, including reports of rifts within the leadership ranks of the Taliban. The report states that “the Taliban remain strongly, surprisingly cohesive” and that there is little “meaningful opposition” as the decision-making power is in the hands of their supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada.

In addition, the report states the Taliban’s interference with foreign aid includes intimidation and coercion of local UN staff and, as with other NGOs, pushing for “ever-increasing degrees of credit and control over the delivery of aid, especially the more tangible forms of aid.”

NGOs are forced to sign memoranda of understanding with ministries that are being taken over by agents of the Taliban’s secret service, the General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI). The GDI official responsible for oversight of NGOs is believed to be responsible for a massacre of opponents in Nangarhar, according to the report.

UN agencies and NGOs meanwhile are forced to enter bilateral agreements complying with conditions for Taliban oversight and control. This “removed much of the leverage other agencies had once the precedent of acquiescence was set,” the report says.

It also sheds some light on Taliban finances, describing the group as adept at tax collection and basic budget management – thanks to the retention of a large core of Republic-era civil servants, Foreign Policy stated.

The report stated that Taliban revenues of about $2 billion a year are roughly what the former government generated but what is less clear is where the money is spent. The report estimates about 40 percent of the national budget is allocated to the security sector while the balance is unclear.

The “Taliban are clearly generating income—but it isn’t at all clear what they are spending it on,” the report says.

According to the report, “the myriad means of profiting from engagement with the UN system and the aid sector, aside from formal taxation, mean that even though the investment amounts are greatly reduced from the 20 years of US-led intervention, foreign aid is a major economic prize to be contested.”