Taliban benefiting from international aid through ‘fraudulent’ NGOs, says U.S. watchdog

The watchdog for U.S. assistance to Afghanistan is warning that the Taliban are benefiting from international aid through the establishment of fraudulent nongovernmental groups

October 24, 2023 07:21 am | Updated 05:35 pm IST - KABUL

Taliban soldiers stand guard at a govt. building in Kabul, Afghanistan. File  photo

Taliban soldiers stand guard at a govt. building in Kabul, Afghanistan. File photo | Photo Credit: REUTERS

The watchdog for U.S. assistance to Afghanistan has warned that the Taliban are benefiting from international aid through the establishment of fraudulent nongovernmental organisations.

The Taliban have exerted greater control over national and international NGOs since seizing power in August 2021. They have barred Afghan women from NGO work and sought to push out foreign organisations from the education sector.

A report from the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, said it found that the Taliban benefit from American-funded education programming through the generation of tax revenues and from more “nefarious” methods like the establishment of fraudulent NGOs and extorting and infiltrating existing NGOs to obtain or direct international donor aid.

In May, a SIGAR report highlighted the Taliban’s interference with NGO work in Afghanistan. The Ministry of Economy, which supervises the sector, rejected the claims. Ministry spokesman Abdul Rahman Habib, responding to the latest SIGAR report on Monday, said there was no evidence of interference.

$185 million U.S. aid on education

According to the report, published this month, the U.S. has spent around $185 million on education in Afghanistan since August 2021.

An NGO official told SIGAR that the Taliban target and extort Afghans who receive monetary support from American-funded education programs under the guise of taxation. In another example, NGO officials told the watchdog that the Taliban coerced NGOs into hiring supporters or purchasing goods from Taliban-owned companies.

Taliban policies and priorities have reduced the overall quality of education, with a drop in the number of teachers and a decrease in teacher quality, as unqualified community members or Taliban officials replace staff, SIGAR said.

"We found that the Taliban have been unable to fully fund public school teacher salaries and building maintenance costs, leading to further teacher shortages and the deterioration of school buildings."

The redirection of international donor aid to community-based education schools, along with financial and infrastructure challenges facing the Taliban, raised serious questions about how the Taliban could sustain the education sector and if they had any intention of doing so, the report said.

An Education Ministry spokesman, Qari Mansor Ahmad Hamza, called the SIGAR report baseless and said the quality of teaching and school facilities in Afghanistan is better than before.

“At present, the projects and financial assistance of international aid agencies are under the strong supervision of the top leadership of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” Hamza said, employing the term the Taliban use to describe their administration.

The leadership promises to “invest this aid” and share reports with the country, the spokesman added.

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