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SIGAR paints bleak picture on immediate future



(Last Updated On: March 17, 2021)

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko on Wednesday painted a bleak picture of what lies ahead for Afghanistan in the event of US troops withdrawal by May 1 and the possible withdrawal of funding which props up the Kabul government.

Addressing the US Congress’ Subcommittee on National Security, Sokpo stated that future funding for Afghanistan faces two principal risks: “whether expanding the conditions donors set for funding will be sufficient incentive to facilitate and maintain an acceptable peace agreement, and whether the level of foreign assistance during this uncertain period is sufficient to prevent state collapse”.

Sopko said Afghanistan remains exceptionally reliant upon foreign assistance, creating both an opportunity for donors to influence events in the country as foreign troops depart, and risks to a potential peace if the US reduces assistance too much, too fast, or insist on conditions that cannot be achieved by the parties to the conflict

According to Sopko, part of the US-Taliban deal stipulates that not only must all foreign troops be withdrawn by May 1, but the 18,000 odd foreign contractors currently in Afghanistan, who mainly assist with training and advising, would also have to leave.

He said about 7,000 of those are US citizens and the remaining 6,000 are non-Afghans who are third party nationals (from other countries).

Sopko told the House Committee that in the event of troops being withdrawn “it would hurt the Afghan government” but if all contractors were to leave the Afghan air force “would probably lose its capability of flying any of its aircraft within months”.

He also hinted that a sudden withdrawal could lead to a total collapse of state, “especially if we withdraw funding”.

Asked whether the Taliban was a single entity or a fractured body, Sopko said there were some indications during the early part of negotiations with the US last year that there was some unity within the group but he said since then “you’ve got individual groups that will go off on a frolic and a detour at will.”

Sopko said that while an audit into this has not been done, he felt the Taliban was not able to control all its groups.

On the possible influence in Afghanistan post-peace by China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran, Sopko said all four countries have historically played a role in funding insurgents or funding warlords or “corrupting officials in Afghanistan”.

He said going forward, these four countries “would all play a role in a post-peace government” but what that role would be, he said he did not know.

“They all have an interest in Afghanistan,” he said, adding especially Pakistan and Iran.

Ghost soldiers still and issue

On the issue of ghost soldiers Sopko said this was still a major problem but that SIGAR has not been able to get to document the problem.

He also said officials steal the salaries of soldiers and even their food.

He noted that such actions lead to soldiers losing morale despite the fact that “there is a will to fight” for their country, he said.

He also said SIGAR does not have the capacity to collect data from regions in order to audit something like this.

Corruption a matter of serious concern

Sopko stated that investigations have identified corruption at virtually every level of the Afghan state – from salaries paid by international donors for Afghan soldiers and police who do not exist – to theft of US-military-provided fuel on a massive scale

Sopko said corruption “is also fueling the insurgency to some extent” as the Taliban then “point towards” corrupt officials, corrupt warlords and point to the fact that there is immunity – for top officials in the country – who never get sent to prison.

In his opinion, ther are diplomatic reasons for staying in Afghanistan.

One is that having boots on the ground is helpful in terms of counter terrorism efforts and also that if the US pulls out it will lose everything that it has invested over the past 20 years.

A further destabilized Afghanistan could also be a big problem for the US in future, he said.

But he noted that “everyone in Afghanistan realises they need foreign assistance”.

“We know the Taliban want foreign assistance”, including the removal of the name’s from the blacklist.

Imposing conditions around funding the government was something that needs to be focused on, Sopko said, having said earlier that not enough conditions have been put in place by the US in terms of ensuring funding did not go to waste..

Asked if Afghanistan still has serious issues with corruption, Sopko said bluntly “Yes!”

He also agreed that corruption was having a serious impact on reconstruction efforts in the country and that some of the money given to the Afghan government for reconstruction efforts could have found its way into the pockets of insurgent groups.

Asked if it was possible that some of the $148 billion spent by US in Afghanistan in the past 20 years had been used by “terror groups”, Sopko said: “Of course; Yes; Of course.”

While the Afghan govt has repeatedly assured the international community that it has the political will to combat corruption & make needed institutional reforms, it has a mixed record of completing them

He said: “Corruption and narcotics is the oxygen that keeps the terrorist groups alive in Afghanistan.”

Asked if he shares Congress members’ concerns that US tax payers dollars are fronting billions of dollars to a corrupt country with no truly effective means of tracking it, Sopko said: “Yes we are very concerned about that. That’s why we say one of the risks is oversight.  You have got to have some oversight. Otherwise you may as well just burn the money in Massoud Circle.”

One Congressman James Comer pointed out that the oversight committee needs to know where the money is going but said in his opinion he does not “see a viable long term strategy for the United States in Afghanistan,” and that he “strongly supports withdrawing troops.”

He said he understands the problems that Afghanistan is going to have when troops are gone “but the American taxpayers don’t want to spend anymore money in Afghanistan.”

“This has been the sentiment from the majority of my constituents and I think the majority of Americans for many many years now.”

Despite major achievements having been made regarding women’s rights in the country, Sopko said Afghanistan is still one of the worst countries to be a woman particularly for those living in a rural environment.

“It’s only in the cities where we have seen some real good improvement”. He also said the Taliban has not indicated much in the way of them being prepared to support women and girls in a future Afghanistan.

But one thing to keep in mind is that even the Afghan government hasn’t done enough for women, he told the committee.

Referring to a recent ban – that was subsequently overturned – on girls over 12 being able to sing the national anthem in a mixed environment, he said: “That sort of tells you about a cultural divide among Afghans even Afghans in government.”

If there are no “boots on the ground”, the US will lose a lot of leverage and if “there is no oversight, you can just forget about any of that money that we appropriate for helping women and girls from ending up helping” them, he said.

Training and supporting the Afghan military and police is also part of the term “development” in terms of US funding, said Sopko adding that COVID-19 has limited the US troops in Afghanistan from fully assisting the Afghan military.

Sopko said it would be very difficult to carry on conducting oversight if all troops are withdrawn and said none of the regional roleplayers could help with oversight if the US withdraws. He specifically said that no one would be comfortable handing over this sector to Iran, Russia or Pakistan.

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Almost 700 people including ex-govt officials return home: commission



(Last Updated On: October 1, 2023)

The Commission for Contact with Afghan Personalities says nearly 700 officials of the previous government, politicians, members of the National Council and some experts have returned to Afghanistan since the establishment of the commission early last year.

“Six hundred and eighty people from different countries have returned to the country,” said the commission’s spokesman, Ahmadullah Wasiq.

He stated that among these people are former officials of the old government who worked in various ministries and departments.

He added that currently, a large number of personalities, including politicians and high-ranking officials of the former government, have received application forms to return to the country through this commission, and will come home soon.

“We have distributed hundreds of forms [to them] and our wish is that in the near future many of the people will return to the country, so for now this process is going very well,” Wasiq added.

A number of those who have returned to the country, however, are demanding some changes to the commission, adding that the caretaker government should make effective use of the cadres and experts who return and provide them with work opportunities.

“The method of this process should be changed, such as communicating with experts or elites or politicians. Second, when these people come to Afghanistan, they should be provided with work,” said Amanullah Ghalib, former head of Breshna Sherkat, who also returned to the country recently.

Officials have repeatedly requested Afghans living abroad, including politicians and officials of the previous government, to return to their homeland and continue their normal lives in Afghanistan in accordance with the general amnesty issued by the Islamic Emirate’s supreme leader.

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Hanafi says IEA seeking to promote electronic governance



(Last Updated On: October 1, 2023)

Deputy Prime Minister for Administrative Affairs Abdul Salam Hanafi said on Sunday that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) is trying to promote electronic governance in its institutions.

Hanafi said this at the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the simplification of administrative processes between the Department of Administrative Reforms and Civil Services, the Ministry of Martyrs and the Disabled, and Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat company.

Hanafi added that the Islamic Emirate is committed to e-governance and is seeking to network government institutions so that the work can be done quickly.

“God willing, we are determined to gradually reform all government institutions. We are seeking to end the paperwork in the departments and we are trying to promote electronic governance among the institutions,” he said.

Hanafi also said that the Islamic Emirate is committed to serving the people and to the development of the country. He also said the government will soon start work on the second phase of Qosh Tepa canal as the first phase is almost complete.

“Alhamdulillah, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is engaged in reconstruction and development works in various fields. The first phase of the Qosh Tepa canal is being completed with our own funds,” he said.

On the other hand, officials in the Administrative Reforms and Civil Services Department said that they are hoping to attract experts and professionals in government offices and want the work to be entrusted to professionals. At the same time, the officials of DABS announced that 118 million afghanis has been collected from strongmen.

“The goal is to prevent corruption. The goal is to show compassion to the oppressed and suffering people. The goal is to avoid spending,” Abdulhanan Arifullah, the general director of the Administrative Reforms and Civil Services Department, said.

Deputy PM Hanafi said that compared to any other institution, the processes in the Ministry of Martyrs and the Disabled need to be simplified because vulnerable people reach out to this institution.

According to him, in the current year, 13.5 billion afghanis have been budgeted for the martyrs, disabled and orphans.

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Afghan embassy in India announces it will cease operations from Oct. 1



(Last Updated On: October 1, 2023)

The embassy of Afghanistan in India’s capital New Delhi will cease operations from Oct. 1, due to a lack of support from India and a reduction in personnel and resources, the embassy said in a statement on social media platform X.

The embassy also said a failure to meet expectations in serving Afghanistan’s interests is another key factor in shutting of the embassy.

“Given these circumstances, it is with deep regret that we have taken the difficult decision to close all operations of the mission with the exception of emergency consular services to Afghan citizens till the transfer of the custodial authority of the mission to the host country,” the embassy said in the statement dated Sept. 30.

In its announcement, the Afghan Embassy also cited challenges like shortage of both personnel and resources available. “The lack of timely and sufficient support from visa renewal for diplomats to other critical areas of cooperation led to an understandable frustration among our team and impeded our ability to carry out routine duties effectively,” the statement read.

The embassy also refuted any “baseless claims” regarding internal strife or discord among its diplomatic staff or any diplomats using the crisis to seek asylum in a third country.

Reuters had reported on Friday that the Afghan embassy in India suspended all operations after the ambassador and other senior diplomats left the country for Europe and the United States where they gained asylum.

India does not recognise the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) as government, and closed its own embassy in Kabul after the IEA took control in 2021, but New Delhi had allowed the ambassador and mission staff appointed by the Western-backed government of ousted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to issue visas and handle trade matters.


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