Biden Admin’s Aid Partners Shelled Out Millions In US Funds To Taliban, Report Finds

The Biden administration has overseen at least $10 million in payments to the Taliban since August 2021, according to a watchdog report released Monday.

The Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 2021 shortly after the Biden administration evacuated U.S. forces from the region in what was seen as an operational failure by critics. The Biden administration has worked with several partner agencies since 2021 to provide assistance to the Afghani people, but a sizeable portion of US funds have gone toward directly paying the Taliban-controlled government, according to a report released by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) on Monday. (RELATED: Top US General Warned Biden Admin That Afghanistan Would Get ‘Very Bad, Very Fast’ After Withdrawal)

“Last year, I requested that SIGAR report on the extent to which U.S. taxpayer dollars are benefitting the Taliban,” Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement. “Unsurprisingly, SIGAR has found that at least $10.9 million in U.S. taxpayer dollars have been provided to the Taliban. It is unacceptable for any U.S. funding to benefit the Taliban. The Biden administration must take immediate action to prevent U.S. taxpayer dollars from going to the Taliban.”

At least 38 of the 65 implementing partner agencies tasked with providing assistance in Afghanistan have collectively made at least $10.9 million in payments to the Taliban, $10.4 million of which was purely in taxes and the rest of which related to public utilities, fees and custom duties, according to the SIGAR report. The total amount is likely much higher, the report notes, because United Nations (UN) agreements with USAID and the State Department do not require partner agencies to submit annual reports on funds spent on taxes and fees as part of Afghanistan assistance.

TOPSHOT – Taliban security personnel stand guard as an Afghan burqa-clad woman (R) walks along a street at a market in the Baharak district of Badakhshan province on February 26, 2024. (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)

As the Taliban is not recognized as the governing body of Afghanistan, some U.S. officials who spoke to SIGAR believed it was not necessary to report payments made to the Islamic organization because it does not qualify as payments made to a “host government,” according to the report. The majority of partner agencies who responded to SIGAR said they “did not receive any guidance from U.S. agencies related to the payment and reporting of taxes, fees, duties, or utilities,” with one partner agency claiming that the State Department never provided instructions on how to report such expenses.

“We encourage but do not require implementing partners who do not pay foreign taxes to submit a [zero] foreign tax report,” personnel from State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs told SIGAR. “Since there is no recognized government in Afghanistan, [its]… implementing partner … is not providing taxes to the Taliban. Therefore, there are no relevant tax reports to report.”

The Taliban used several tactics to try and get more money out of some of the respective partner agencies providing assistance in Afghanistan by “[attempting] to extort monies through the collection of additional taxes, duties, or fees, using various tactics, including harassment by members of the Taliban security forces, forcing duplicate payments of the same invoice, and blocking implementing partners’ access to their bank accounts,” the report reads. In other cases, the Taliban attempted to control how funding was spent, install their own officials in assistance and security operations and divert aid to populations of their choosing.

(Photo by Nava Jamshidi/Getty Images)

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – AUGUST 15: Taliban supporters parade through the streets of Kabul on August 15, 2023 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Two years ago, the Taliban completed their return to power in Afghanistan after the fall of the Western-backed government and rapid evacuations of foreign militaries, organizations and many Afghans who worked with them. In the time since, no country has formally recognized Taliban rule. (Photo by Nava Jamshidi/Getty Images)

“Seventeen of the 65 respondents to our questionnaire (26 percent) reported experiencing direct pressure from the Taliban, including requiring involvement in and approval of program design and implementation; mandating access to facilities, or use of resources or vehicles; recruiting or hiring of certain Taliban-approved individuals; diverting food and other aid to populations chosen by the Taliban. Other implementing partners reported the Taliban required them to hire Taliban-affiliated security forces to provide security,” the report reads.

The report underscores concerns that making direct payments to the Taliban “risks contributing to the legitimization of the Taliban in the eyes of the Afghan people,” noting that some partner agencies have reported that the organization has taken credit for aid delivery for propaganda and promotion purposes.

The U.S. and the UN have collectively spent billions on various efforts to provide assistance to Afghanistan since U.S. forces withdrew from the region. The Taliban has been criticized for ruling over Afghanistan with an iron fist, implementing authoritarian policies, committing scores of human rights abuses and dramatically restricting women’s rights.

The Biden administration has been heavily criticized for how the U.S. withdrawal was conducted. U.S. forces fully evacuated from Afghanistan in August 2021, and communication problems between the administration and forces on the ground resulted in chaos at the airport where troops were evacuating; 13 U.S. troops and over 170 Afghan civilians were killed in a suicide bombing at the airport on Aug. 26.

The administration maintains that the Afghanistan withdrawal was the “correct policy choice.”

“All the evidence is coming back. Do you remember what I said about Afghanistan?” Biden told reporters in 2023 when asked whether mistakes were made during the withdrawal. “I said Al Qaeda would not be there.  I said it wouldn’t be there.  I said we’d get help from the Taliban. What’s happening now? What’s going on? Read your press. I was right.”

The Taliban has strengthened its ties with Al Queda since the 2021 U.S. withdrawal, despite promises that it would cut off the terrorist group, according to CBS News. Al Qaeda has reportedly established eight new military training camps since the withdrawal, controls several safe houses across the region, operates religious schools for training children to become militants and enjoys increased protection from the Taliban.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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