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US watchdog exposes misuse of UN aid in Afghanistan

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KABUL – In a recent disclosure to Congress, a U.S. watchdog has brought to light disturbing information about the misuse and control of international humanitarian aid by the de facto Taliban authorities in Afghanistan.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), John Sopko, revealed unsettling findings about the handling of international humanitarian aid by the de facto Taliban authorities in Afghanistan. In a recent disclosure to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, SIGAR presented evidence of diversion and control of aid by the Taliban.

However, Sopko refrained from providing specific details, explaining that SIGAR was tasked with investigating whether U.S. aid to Afghanistan was benefiting the Taliban. This has posed a conundrum for many congressmen who struggle with the dilemma of providing humanitarian assistance to suffering Afghans while potentially supporting a regime they oppose.

As of now, United Nations officials have not responded to questions from VOA regarding their knowledge of diverted aid.

It’s important to note that the Taliban has been under U.S. sanctions for several decades, stemming from their previous rule over Afghanistan in the 1990s. In the wake of the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021, the United States government suspended all development aid to the country after spending over $146 billion on reconstruction efforts between 2002 and 2022.

The Taliban has denied any interference in humanitarian programs, instead accusing the U.S. and other Western donors of politicizing aid to Afghanistan. However, the regime has been widely criticized for imposing gender-based restrictions on aid activities, particularly by denying Afghan women’s involvement in work for the U.N. and other non-governmental organizations, which has been condemned as misogynistic.

The U.N. has also reported numerous incidents of interference involving U.N. aid workers, with 118 gender-related incidents recorded, primarily attributed to the de facto authorities. These incidents include interference with programming, threats against humanitarian workers, and restrictions on female staff movement without male escorts.

Despite the sanctions imposed on the Taliban, the United States has continued to provide humanitarian funding to Afghanistan, amounting to around $2 billion since August 2021. While there has been a decline in other donors’ response to the U.N.’s humanitarian appeal for Afghanistan, the United States remains at the top of the donors’ list, contributing over $336 million so far in the current year and more than $1.26 billion in the previous year.

However, as of July 20, only 23% of this year’s Afghanistan appeal has been funded, according to the U.N. Aid agencies have warned that insufficient funding could push millions of vulnerable Afghan households into extreme poverty.

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