Washington, D.C. (March 16, 2021)—Today, Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, held a hearing with Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John F. Sopko.
SIGAR Sopko testified about the findings in SIGAR’s “2021 High-Risk List” and how the scheduled withdrawal of U.S military forces from Afghanistan in May 2021 might affect ongoing reconstruction efforts and the prospects for a stable and durable peace agreement that protects the rights of all Afghans, including women and girls.
SIGAR Sopko testified that Afghanistan’s future is at greater risk than ever before due to unacceptably high levels of violence, a stalled peace process, and a limited remaining U.S military presence in Afghanistan.
- SIGAR Sopko testified that, “I believe most would agree with our report that achieving our counterterrorism and reconstruction objectives depends on a strong, stable, democratic, and self-reliant Afghanistan. Unfortunately, as our report discusses in great detail, Afghanistan is far from that reality, and may be fighting for its very survival.”
- He also testified that, “Afghanistan is heavily dependent on foreign financial assistance…Yet, as we report, because international donors have largely lacked the will to impose, and more importantly, enforce, concrete conditions on their assistance, the Afghan government has made little, if any progress in combating corruption or illicit narcotics production, both of which provide critical oxygen to the insurgency.”
SIGAR Sopko argued that the Afghan government will need continued support and financial assistance from the United States and Coalition partners—even if President Biden decides to withdraw the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
- SIGAR Sopko argued that if the U.S. withdraws its military and contractor personnel from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, as stipulated by the February 2020 U.S.-Taliban agreement, the Afghan Government “will probably lose the capability of flying any of its aircraft within months, a few months. And, to be quite blunt, it probably would face collapse, especially if we also withdraw the funding… So, if that happens, if you combine those three, it’s a disaster for Afghanistan.”
- He also testified that, “Whether or not the U.S. withdraws its troops, the new Administration and Congress will need to decide whether and to what extent reconstruction will continue. It could be a very critical decision for we must remember that it was not the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989, but the withdrawal of Soviet Rubles, that led to the collapse of the Afghan regime in 1992.”
Subcommittee Members and SIGAR Sopko agreed that the rights of all Afghans, including women and girls, must be protected in order to bring a sustainable and lasting peace to Afghanistan.
- In response to questioning from Rep. Jackie Speier, SIGAR Sopko testified that, “If there are no boots on the ground, we lose leverage for all of these issues—women, girls, and all that. And if there’s no oversight, you can just forget about any of that money that we appropriate for women and girls ending up helping women and girls.”
- During his opening statement, Chairman Lynch argued that, “the prospects for a sustainable and lasting peace in Afghanistan will inevitably depend on whether the Taliban and the Afghan government can reach a political agreement that respects the rights of all Afghans, including women and girls.”