oversight

Oversight Committee Chairs and Ranking Members Send Bipartisan Request to Inspector General to Conduct Afghanistan Review

Published by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction on 2021-09-10.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                                            September 10, 2021

The Honorable John F. Sopko
Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction
2530 Crystal Drive
Arlington, VA 22202-3940

Dear Special Inspector General Sopko:

        We write today to request that you conduct a review to examine the underlying causes
that may have contributed to the rapid collapse last month of the government of Afghanistan and
the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), any potential loss or compromise of
U.S. reconstruction assistance resulting from the Taliban’s return to power, and the ramifications
of the U.S. military and diplomatic withdrawal for U.S. national security and the people of
Afghanistan.

        The United States has spent approximately $145 billion for reconstruction activities in
Afghanistan since 2002, including about $87 billion to build, train, equip, and assist the
ANDSF.1 Given two decades of U.S. and Coalition investments in Afghanistan’s future, it is
crucial that the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) continue its
important work on behalf of Congress and the American people to document the relative
successes and failures of our reconstruction mission in Afghanistan, particularly in light of the
Afghan government’s capitulation to the Taliban in a matter of weeks, culminating with the fall
of Kabul on August 15, 2021.2

        Since its inception in 2008, SIGAR has issued 427 audits, 191 special project reports, 52
quarterly reports, and ten comprehensive lessons-learned reports.3 Altogether, these reports
represent a body of work that repeatedly identified long-term, structural weaknesses in the
viability and legitimacy of the government of Afghanistan, and persistent vulnerabilities with
respect to the strength and capabilities of the ANDSF:


        1
         Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, Quarterly Report to the United States
Congress (July 30, 2021) (online at www.sigar.mil/pdf/quarterlyreports/2021-07-30qr.pdf).
        Kabul’s Sudden Fall to Taliban Ends U.S. Era in Afghanistan, New York Times (Aug. 15, 2021) (online
        2

at www.nytimes.com/2021/08/15/world/asia/afghanistan-taliban-kabul-surrender.html).
        3
          Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, What We Need to Learn: Lessons from Twenty
Years of Afghanistan Reconstruction (Aug. 16, 2021) (online at www.sigar.mil/pdf/lessonslearned/SIGAR-21-46-
LL.pdf).
The Honorable John F. Sopko
Page 2

        •        In its first quarterly report to Congress after you assumed the role of Special
                 Inspector General in 2012, SIGAR cautioned that “a decade of struggle and
                 bloodshed—and more than $89 billion of U.S. appropriations for Afghan
                 reconstruction—has not cleared the landscape of serious problems.” SIGAR also
                 noted that “[t]he Afghan government does not have sufficient revenue to pay for
                 its security forces” and would rely heavily on the United States and international
                 community to subsidize those costs through at least 2024.4

        •        In 2014, SIGAR released its first “High-Risk List” report warning that “limited
                 institutional and human-capital capacity in Afghan institutions” and “widespread
                 corruption in Afghan society and government entities” were undermining U.S.
                 reconstruction programs in Afghanistan.5

        •        Two years later, SIGAR reported that endemic corruption in Afghanistan had
                 “undermined the U.S. mission in Afghanistan by fueling grievances against the
                 Afghan government and channeling material support to the insurgency.” The
                 report continued:

                          The U.S. government was slow to recognize the magnitude of the
                          problem, the role of corrupt patronage networks, the ways in which
                          corruption threatened core U.S. goals, and that certain U.S. policies and
                          practices exacerbated the problem. 6

        •        In a September 2017 report, SIGAR found that “[c]orruption by ANDSF officials,
                 at all institutional levels, has degraded security, force readiness, and overall
                 capabilities” and that the U.S. and Coalition forces provided the ANDSF with
                 “equipment that surpassed the ANDSF’s resources and capacity to maintain.”
                 SIGAR found that these limitations “directly and negatively impacted ANDSF
                 combat readiness and effectiveness.” 7

        •        Just before the collapse of the Afghan government, SIGAR produced a “Lessons
                 Learned” report, which concluded that the U.S. government “continuously
                 struggled to develop and implement a coherent strategy for what it hoped to
                 achieve” in Afghanistan; “consistently underestimated the amount of time
                 required to rebuild Afghanistan, and created unrealistic timelines and expectations

        4
           Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, Quarterly Report to Congress (Jul. 30, 2012)
(online at www.sigar.mil/pdf/quarterlyreports/2012-07-30qr.pdf).
        5
        Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, High-Risk List (Dec. 2014) (online at
www.sigar.mil/pdf/spotlight/High-Risk_List.pdf).
        6
         Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, Corruption in Conflict: Lessons from the U.S.
Experience in Afghanistan (Sept. 2016) (online at www.sigar.mil/pdf/lessonslearned/SIGAR-16-58-LL.pdf).
        7
         Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, Reconstructing the Afghan National Defense
and Security Forces: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan (Sept. 2017) (online at
www.sigar.mil/pdf/lessonslearned/SIGAR-17-62-LL.pdf)
The Honorable John F. Sopko
Page 3

                that prioritized spending quickly,” which in turn exacerbated corruption; and “did
                not understand the Afghan context and therefore failed to tailor its efforts
                accordingly.” 8

       In light of the collapse of the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban’s return to
power, it is imperative to conduct a complete and thorough accounting of the U.S. reconstruction
mission in Afghanistan.

        For these reasons, we respectfully request that SIGAR examine the following matters:

        1.      The collapse of the government in Afghanistan, including:

                a.       The factors that contributed to the dissolution of the government of
                         Afghanistan in August 2021, and any chronic weaknesses that undermined
                         the government’s authority or legitimacy since 2002; and

                b.       The relative success or failure of U.S. reconstruction efforts to build and
                         sustain Afghan governing institutions since 2002.

        2.      The collapse and dissolution of the ANDSF, including:

                a.       The underlying causes that contributed to the rapid dissolution of the
                         ANDSF in August 2021, and any chronic weaknesses in the strength and
                         capabilities of the ANDSF since 2002;

                b.       To the extent practicable, an accounting of all U.S. assistance provided to
                         build, train, advise, and equip the ANDSF since 2002;

                c.       To the extent practicable, an accounting of the total number of ANDSF
                         personnel trained and equipped through U.S. reconstruction programs
                         since 2002 and the current status of these personnel; and

                d.       The relative success or failure of U.S. reconstruction efforts to build, train,
                         advise, and equip the ANDSF.

        3.      Continued risks to U.S.-funded reconstruction assistance in Afghanistan,
                including recommendations or suggestions to address these risks:

                a.       The current status of U.S. funding appropriated or obligated for
                         reconstruction programs in Afghanistan, including on-budget assistance
                         and any contracts that remain active or pending;

        8
          Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, What We Need to Learn: Lessons from Twenty
Years of Afghanistan Reconstruction (Aug. 16, 2021) (online at www.sigar.mil/pdf/lessonslearned/SIGAR-21-46-
LL.pdf).
The Honorable John F. Sopko
Page 4

              b.      The extent to which the Taliban have access to U.S. on-budget assistance
                      or U.S.-funded equipment and defense articles previously provided to the
                      government of Afghanistan and the ANDSF, and any mechanisms the
                      U.S. government is using to recoup, recapture, or secure this funding and
                      equipment; and

              c.      The status of and potential risks to the Afghan people and civil society
                      organizations, including Afghan women and girls, journalists, educational
                      institutions, health care operations, and non-government institutions
                      resulting from the Taliban’s return to power.

        Due to current security conditions, we understand that SIGAR will not have an in-country
presence in Afghanistan when conducting this review, and as a result, access to relevant Afghan
government records or information may be limited. However, we do not believe this should
preclude SIGAR from conducting this important review, and we are prepared to work with you
and your staff to adjust the scope of this request in the event that SIGAR determines it lacks
access to information that is necessary to conduct this review.

        We are also grateful for the bipartisan briefing you provided to Members of our
Committee on August 31, 2021, regarding recent events in Afghanistan and for your other recent
testimony in hearings and briefings before the Committee and the Subcommittee on Na tional
Security. We look forward to working with you to conduct additional oversight of these issues
in the weeks ahead.

         The Committee on Oversight and Reform is the principal oversight committee of the
House of Representatives and has broad authority to investigate “any matter” at “any time” under
House Rule X. If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact Subcommittee
staff at (202) 225-5051.

                                          Sincerely,



____________________________                               ____________________________
Carolyn B. Maloney                                         James Comer
Chairwoman                                                 Ranking Member
Committee on Oversight and Reform                          Committee on Oversight and Reform



____________________________                               ____________________________
Stephen F. Lynch                                           Glenn Grothman
Chairman                                                   Ranking Member
Subcommittee on National Security                          Subcommittee on National Security