Report: State Dept. Preventing Afghan War Watchdog from Overseeing Billions of Dollars

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Courtesy US Government

The American Embassy in Kabul, a component of the State Department, is sending Afghan terrorists the “dangerous message” that they are feared, and winning by imposing travel restrictions on U.S. agencies that prevent them from overseeing billions in taxpayer funds, reports an inspector general (IG).

According to the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a watchdog agency, the State Department has, for the most part, confined most non-Pentagon U.S. agencies in Afghanistan to the American embassy compound

In its most recent quarterly report to Congress, SIGAR acknowledges that the embassy has imposed the constraints “as security incidents have multiplied” across the country over the past year.

John Sopko, the chief of the watchdog agency, is concerned that the restrictions will prevent its investigators from overseeing the estimated $120 billion America is dedicating to Afghan reconstruction.

SIGAR reports:

Common sense has always dictated that a balance needs to be struck between the need for risk mitigation and the need for U.S. organizations…to accomplish their missions. Hunkering down behind blast walls while positive from a security perspective, damages not only the U.S. civilian mission but also handicaps the U.S. military mission to create a stable and functioning Afghan military and police free from corruption and incompetence.

Ironically, in the long run, such extreme risk aversion and avoidance may even contribute to greater insecurity, since it limits U.S. diplomatic reach to the very Afghan agencies, officials, and community leaders necessary to foster stability, rule of law, and economic growth, while sending an unintended but dangerous message to friend and foe alike that the terrorists should be feared and may actually be winning.

Even when the American military has offered to provide security, State has prohibited SIGAR officials from leaving the embassy compound.

“Our ability to get around has become a problem,” Sopko told Breitbart News last week when asked about the top hurdles facing his agency.

“I’m usually under the protection of the State Department, but we also have a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Defense (DoD) that if State doesn’t have enough people, we can use DoD,” he explained. “Our ambassador has said that deal doesn’t apply.”

United States law mandates that most non-Pentagon executive branch officials work out of the country under the supervision and direction of the American chief of mission, a role that falls on the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan.

Currently, the American ambassador in Afghanistan is Hugo Llorens. The U.S. embassy in Kabul did not immediately respond to Breitbart News requests for comment.

Sopko told Breitbart News that the U.S. envoy has decided that if it is not safe for State officials to travel, he does not care if the U.S. military can provide protection, SIGAR officials cannot go.

“The U.S. military is the best military in the world,” the inspector general (IG) told Breitbart News. “I would rely on them to protect me. I feel safe surrounded by the U.S military. Now, why would somebody at the embassy say no you can’t use them. That to me is not reasonable. It’s not common sense. It doesn’t help the mission, and that is a problem.”

Besides SIGAR, the U.S. ambassador has reportedly applied the travel restrictions to other agencies in Afghanistan, including State, Justice, and Treasury Departments, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Despite the ongoing risk in the war-ravaged country, SIGAR must carry out its statutory mandate to protect American taxpayer funds through audits, inspections, and investigations, reports Sopko, noting that the agency cannot perform its obligations via email, phone calls, and drone cameras.

“U.S. officials are forced to balance the need to carry out their mission with the need to manage risks if they are to succeed,” adds SIGAR.

The work of the U.S. government in Afghanistan may be more critical to accomplishing the mission now that President Donald Trump’s administration is in the process of developing its Afghan war strategy, notes Sopko in the report to Congress.

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