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US auditor finds taxpayer money flowing to Taliban, Al Qaeda - but Army refuses to act

Warnings from the US government's internal auditor that an ongoing $20 billion Afghanistan reconstruction program is lining the pockets of the Taliban and Al Qaeda have been ignored.

By Staff writer / July 30, 2013

Was this Taliban attack on a USAID compound in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan funded via USAID? You have to wonder.

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The US military has been ignoring warnings that its spending in Afghanistan is funding Al Qaeda and the Taliban. And John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), appears to have had enough.

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Staff writer

Dan Murphy is a staff writer for the Monitor's international desk, focused on the Middle East. Murphy, who has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and more than a dozen other countries, writes and edits Backchannels. The focus? War and international relations, leaning toward things Middle East.

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He issued a blistering cover letter with SIGAR's quarterly report to Congress today that called into question what "appears to be a growing gap between the policy objectives of Washington and the reality of achieving them in Afghanistan."

The US has $20 billion of Afghan reconstruction spending scheduled, and a further $10 billion requested for the 2014 budget. But after 11 years of war, there are "serious shortcomings in US oversight of contracts: poor planning, delayed or inadequate inspections, insufficient documentation, dubious decisions, and - perhaps most troubling - a pervasive lack of accountability," Mr. Sopko wrote. Good intentions, he added, appear to be running way ahead of commitment to execution.

But Sopko's greatest degree of scorn is reserved for ongoing contracting with businesses that his office is convinced finance the insurgents trying to topple the US-supported Afghan government and kill US troops.

"In conclusion I would also like to reiterate the concerns I raised in our last report about the Army's refusal to act on SIGAR's recommendations to prevent supporters of the insurgency, including supporters of the Taliban, the Haqqani network and al-Qaeda, from receiving government contracts. SIGAR referred 43 such cases to the Army recommending suspension and debarment, based on detailed supporting information demonstrating that these individuals and companies are providing material support to the insurgency in Afghanistan. But the Army rejected all 43 cases. The Army Suspension and Debarment Office appears to believe that suspension or debarment of these individuals and companies would be a violation of their due process rights if based on classified information or if based on findings by the Department of Commerce.

I am deeply troubled that the U.S. military can pursue, attack, and even kill terrorists and their supporters, but that some in the US government believe we cannot prevent these same people from receiving a government contract."

The US has struggled to not finance insurgents in Afghanistan for years now, particularly via pay-offs to warlords close to the Taliban for safe passage of the ammunition and other goods that the US needs to fight the Taliban. And providing funds to insurgents isn't the only situation where US government behavior is at odds with its stated objectives. While the US has made opium eradication a feature of the war in Afghanistan, it continues to do business with an airline that US investigators believe is one of the country's largest opium smugglers.

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