U.S. Afghanistan watchdog investigates allegations Ghani stole funds before fleeing

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Special Inspector General for Reconstruction of Afghanistan John F. Sopko told a House subcommittee on Wednesday that his office was looking into allegations that former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani stole millions of dollars to the Afghan government as it fled the country in August.

In his testimony to the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs panel, Sopko said fraud had spread throughout the U.S.-backed Afghan government throughout the two-decade war, including under Mr. Ghani, who has taken few steps to root out corruption.

Representative Nicole Malliotakis of New York, the top Republican on the subcommittee on international development, international organizations and the global social impact of business, referred to allegations that Mr. Ghani “fled with 169 million dollars, as reported by the BBC and other media “.

“We haven’t proven it yet,” Sopko said. But he confirmed that his office was looking into the allegations.

“There are allegations not only with President Ghani, there are allegations with senior officials in their finance ministry, central bank and a number of other ministries leaving with millions of dollars,” did he declare. “We haven’t confirmed any of these yet. “

Mr. Ghani fled Afghanistan to the United Arab Emirates on August 15, just before Kabul fell into a swift Taliban offensive that toppled its government.

Mr. Ghani’s vice-president, Amrullah Saleh, remained in Afghanistan after Mr. Ghani fled, declaring himself the “interim president” of Afghanistan on August 17. He joined the anti-Taliban National Resistance Front (NRF) in the rugged Panjshir. Valley north of Kabul.

The Biden administration has not publicly supported Mr. Saleh.

Other members of the government and the political establishment, including former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and former top government negotiator Abdullah Abdullah, remained in Kabul to negotiate with the new Taliban leadership.

The Russian embassy in Kabul said Ghani fled the country with “four cars and a helicopter full of money.” But a senior Afghan government official denied the information and told CNN that Mr. Ghani fled with only the “clothes he was wearing.”

In a Facebook post last month, Mr. Ghani continued to deny the allegations.

“These accusations are completely and categorically false,” Ghani said of the allegations. “Corruption has been a scourge that has paralyzed our country for decades and the fight against corruption has been at the center of my efforts as President. “

Tuesday’s hearing was a continuation of a series of Congressional inquiries into the Afghan withdrawal.

Mr Sopko’s testimony focused on how the United States might handle the challenge of expanding humanitarian assistance to Afghans now ruled by the terrorist-aligned fundamentalist Islamic Taliban government.

“We are in a very difficult situation trying to help women, girls and average Afghans right now,” Sopko said.

He said the United States and the international community faced a difficult road to deliver aid to the Afghan people on the brink of humanitarian and economic catastrophe.

“We have lost all ability, first of all, to know how bad the situation is for women and girls, as well as for many other Afghans,” he said. “But we don’t have much influence either.”
Sopko said it was important to ensure that the Taliban are held accountable for any assurances they offer in return for international aid.

“If we give funding, and I’m not advocating that we give the Taliban government a dime… remember what they want,” Sopko said. “And how do we make sure that if we give them whatever they want, we get something back.”

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