Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction

Research and Analysis Directorate

60th Quarterly Report to the United States Congress July 30, 2023Key Issues & Events

Read the Full Report

SIGAR Oversight Activities

A Taliban fighter walks past a beauty salon with images of women defaced in Shar-e-Naw in Kabul on August 18, 2021. (Wakil KOHSAR / AFP)

This quarter, SIGAR issued eight products, including this quarterly report. SIGAR work to date has identified approximately $3.97 billion in savings for the U.S. taxpayer.

From 2009 through June 2023, SIGAR issued 465 audits, alert letters, and inspection reports, and made 1,297 recommendations to recover funds, improve agency oversight, and increase program effectiveness.

To date, SIGAR investigations have resulted in a cumulative total of 169 criminal convictions. Criminal fines, restitutions, forfeitures, civil settlements, and U.S. government cost savings and recoveries total approximately $1.67 billion.

Inspector General John Sopko speaks, alongside John Speller, Member of Parliament (far left), Sir Hugh Bayley, Commissioner of Independent Commission for Aid Impact (left), and Lord Mark Lancaster (far right), at an Independent Commission for Aid Impact event in London, 7/10/2023. (SIGAR Photo by Shelby Cusick)
Inspector General John Sopko speaks, alongside John Speller, Member of Parliament (far left), Sir Hugh Bayley, Commissioner of Independent Commission for Aid Impact (left), and Lord Mark Lancaster (far right), at an Independent Commission for Aid Impact event in London, 7/10/2023. (SIGAR Photo by Shelby Cusick)
Inspector General John Sopko speaks, alongside John Speller, Member of Parliament (far left), Sir Hugh Bayley, Commissioner of Independent Commission for Aid Impact (left), and Lord Mark Lancaster (far right), at an Independent Commission for Aid Impact event in London, 7/10/2023. (SIGAR Photo by Shelby Cusick)

IG Sopko Meets UK Policymakers in London to Discuss Lessons from Afghanistan Reconstruction

At the invitation of the United Kingdom’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), Inspector General John Sopko participated in two July events in London to discuss SIGAR’s reporting on critical lessons from the reconstruction of Afghanistan that could be applied to other conflicts, including Ukraine.

On July 10, IG Sopko and ICAI Commissioner Sir Hugh Bayley spoke at a Royal United Services Institute sponsored event titled, “Learning from Aid Spending in Afghanistan for Other Fragile/Conflict States.” This public event was widely attended by UK policymakers, journalists, academics, and the public. Later that day, IG Sopko and Commissioner Bayley briefed members of Parliament at a closed session hosted by John Speller, the Deputy Chair of the House of Commons Defense Committee, and the UK Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. The briefing focused on ICAI’s latest lessons learned report on the UK’s development efforts in Afghanistan and SIGAR’s lessons learned reports on Afghanistan reconstruction. During both events, IG Sopko discussed lessons from Afghanistan applicable to other conflicts, including Ukraine, such as addressing endemic corruption, improving international donor coordination, and setting realistic timelines for achieving progress with assistance efforts.

Over the course of several days, IG Sopko held meetings with numerous individual UK policymakers and parliamentarians, including representatives from the Office for Conflict, Stabilization, and Mediation of the UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office. He also met with multiple former Afghan government officials and Afghan human rights advocates. During these meetings, IG Sopko discussed the current situation in Afghanistan and SIGAR’s continued oversight for Congress of U.S. assistance to the Afghan people. In addition to learning more about the reality on the ground in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s activities, SIGAR obtained important information for ongoing and planned oversight projects focused on protecting current U.S.-funded assistance efforts in Afghanistan. This included allegations of numerous problems within UN programs in Afghanistan, which confirmed and supplemented information previously obtained by SIGAR.

Finally, at the invitation of King’s College London and the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies, IG Sopko delivered the keynote address at a conference titled, “Reimagining Afghanistan: Ways Forward.” This public event was widely attended by UK policymakers, academics, international journalists, and members of the Afghan diaspora. IG Sopko spoke about the many oversight challenges the United States, the United Kingdom, and other international donors face while providing humanitarian aid to the Afghan people, as well as SIGAR’s ongoing oversight work for Congress to help ensure that this assistance is protected from diversion by the Taliban.

SIGAR Responds to Congress

SIGAR Responds to Request from Senators John Kennedy, Kyrsten Sinema, Kevin Cramer, and Mike Braun Regarding Applying Lessons Learned from Afghanistan to U.S. Efforts in Ukraine

On July 7, 2023, SIGAR responded to a request from Senators John Kennedy, Kyrsten Sinema, Kevin Cramer, and Mike Braun to learn more about how lessons from the 20-year U.S. effort to rebuild Afghanistan can be applicable to “the current situation in Ukraine.”

SIGAR provided seven lessons spanning the entire U.S. reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, offered a brief discussion of how each challenge from Afghanistan appears to be manifesting in Ukraine as well, and put forward ideas for how Congress and U.S. agencies might address those similar challenges in Ukraine.

Those seven lessons are: (1) The U.S. government struggled to develop a coherent strategy for what it hoped to achieve in Afghanistan and imposed unrealistic timelines that led to wasteful and counterproductive programs; (2) Lack of effective coordination—both within the U.S. government and across the international coalition—was a major obstacle to success in Afghanistan and resulted in a disjointed patchwork of ineffective efforts, rather than a united and coherent approach; (3) Though viewed as our greatest strength, the level of financial assistance in Afghanistan was often our greatest weakness; (4) Corruption was an existential threat to the reconstruction mission in Afghanistan; (5) Building and reforming the Afghan security forces was hindered by their corruption, predation, and chronic dependency on the United States; (6) Tracking equipment provided to Afghan security forces proved challenging well before the government collapsed; and (7) Monitoring and evaluation efforts in Afghanistan were weak and often measured simple inputs and outputs rather than actual program effectiveness.

SIGAR’s full response to the request from the four senators is available here.

SIGAR Responds to Request from Senator Charles Grassley Regarding Lessons Learned from Afghanistan

On June 15, 2023, SIGAR responded to a request from Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee to help policymakers “better understand the lessons learned from conducting Afghanistan reconstruction oversight that Congress can apply to other reconstruction efforts to ensure taxpayer money is used more efficiently in future efforts.” This is the first time SIGAR has been asked to apply the lessons from its 12 lessons-learned reports to a U.S. assistance effort in another country with an ongoing conflict. Senator Grassley specifically mentioned U.S. efforts in Ukraine as an area that could benefit from SIGAR’s Lessons Learned Program.

SIGAR answered several questions from Senator Grassley, including the Senator’s request to identify “key challenges and obstacles to successful reconstruction in a war zone.” SIGAR’s response highlighted that (1) corruption is a key obstacle to success and in Afghanistan undermined the U.S. mission by enabling predatory behavior, exacerbating local conflict, and channeling support directly to the insurgency; (2) lack of effective coordination, both within the U.S. government and across the international coalition, was a major obstacle to success and resulted in a disjointed patchwork of ineffective efforts, rather than a united and coherent approach; (3) pervasive insecurity continuously undermined every effort to rebuild government and security institutions, and efforts to improve security often resulted in new or worse problems; (4) poor U.S. personnel policies, both civilian and military, meant that U.S. efforts were rarely overseen by trained and qualified staff; (5) the U.S. needs to understand the host country’s social, economic, and political systems to successfully tailor its reconstruction efforts; and (6) U.S. government agencies rarely conducted sufficient monitoring and evaluation to understand the impact of their efforts.

SIGAR’s full response to the request from the four senators is available here.

U.S. Assistance

Women and children wait to be seen by members of a UNICEF-supported mobile health and nutrition team in Kandahar, Afghanistan. (UN Photo)

The United States remains the largest donor to the Afghan people, having appropriated more than $2.35 billion since the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

In addition to direct U.S. assistance to the people of Afghanistan, the United States is also the single largest donor to the United Nations’ (UN) humanitarian response in Afghanistan. Through the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), the UN leads international efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance directly to Afghans, including food, shelter, cash, and household supplies.

As part of the 2023 HRP issued in March of this year, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) originally sought $4.6 billion to assist 23.7 million Afghans with lifesaving and protection assistance in 2023. On June 5, 2023, the UN revised downward its HRP request to $3.2 billion due to donor fatigue and constraints in providing aid after the Taliban banned Afghan women from working for the UN. In a statement on the funding decrease, the UN said, “[t]he recent bans on Afghan women working for… NGOs and the UN have added yet another layer of complexity to what is already an incredibly challenging protection environment, and further constrained the operational capacity of partners.” As of June 2023, the 2023 HRP was only 14% funded. The United States remains the single largest contributor, having donated $74.4 million thus far.

Education Programs

According to USAID, primary schools remained operational this quarter and girls were able to attend. However, on June 6, 2023, the Taliban issued a verbal directive for international NGOs to transfer education-focused programs to local organizations. USAID reported to SIGAR that International NGOs (INGOs) had 40 days from the directive’s issuance to submit transition proposals to the ministry of education, which will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. USAID anticipates that the verbal directive will have a limited impact on its education programs, but if all community-based education programs managed by INGOs are disrupted due to the directive, it would negatively impact 510,000 children and 17,000 teachers.

Afghan women entrepreneurs showcase their products at a tradeshow in Kabul, July 2023. (Twitter photo from @unwomenafghan)
Afghan women entrepreneurs showcase their products at a tradeshow in Kabul, July 2023. (Twitter photo from @unwomenafghan)
Afghan women entrepreneurs showcase their products at a tradeshow in Kabul, July 2023. (Twitter photo from @unwomenafghan)

SIGAR is examining the conditions of Afghanistan’s education sector since August 2021 and the extent to which the Taliban and other prohibited parties are benefiting from education-related donor assistance. Specifically, SIGAR is assessing (1) the condition of the Afghan education system following the Afghan government’s collapse in August 2021, including the challenges affecting the access to and quality of education; and (2) donor funding for teachers’ salaries and for school administrative and maintenance costs, and the extent to which those funds have directly benefited the Taliban or other prohibited entities and individuals.

Public Health Programs

USAID continues to implement public health initiatives in Afghanistan valued at over 295 million as shown in Table E.5. This quarter, the status of these programs’ services remained precarious, in part due to the Taliban ban on Afghan women working for the UN. USAID told SIGAR that while some reports indicate the ban does not extend to female health workers, the Taliban have not confirmed this in writing, underscoring the ongoing instability of access to women’s health services. USAID’s Office of Social Services is monitoring the ban closely and working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF to understand and adapt to the impacts on project activities. The WHO reported to USAID that activities operated normally this quarter, and said that women are essential to all aspects of WHO’s work; if women are forced to leave their positions, the roles will not be backfilled by male employees. WHO said it provides a flexible work modality for female staff. Women who work from home are provided internet access and solar panels to generate electricity, and women who travel to work are provided additional security.

USAID Public Health Programs

Project Title Start Date End Date Total Estimated Cost (Dollars) Culmulative Disbursements, as of 7/10/2023
Project Title Start Date End Date Total Estimated Cost (Dollars) Culmulative Disbursements, as of 7/10/2023
Assistance for Families and Indigent Afghans to Thrive (AFIAT) 7/10/2020 7/9/2025 117,000,000 37,851,230
Urban Health Initiative (UHI) Program 10/14/2020 10/13/2025 104,000,000 36,965,092
New DEWS Plus 2/2/2022 9/30/2031 50,000,000 7,497,906
Afghanistan Demographic and Health Survey (ADHS) Follow-On 10/9/2018 9/9/2023 10,500,000 2,225,690
Consolidated Grant - COVID-19 Response 9/30/2021 9/29/2026 6,000,000 5,234,324
Central Contraceptive Procurement (CCP) 4/20/2015 11/28/2023 3,599,998 3,642,694
Sustaining Technical and Analytic Resources (STAR) 5/01/2018 9/30/2023 2,186,357 1,274,222
Modeling American Healthcare, Standards & Values in Afghanistan 10/01/2020 9/30/2024 1,092,601 816,862
TB Data, Impact Assessment and Communications Hub (TB DIAH) 9/24/2018 9/24/2023 600,000 600,000
Meeting Targets and Maintaining Epidemic Control 4/15/2019 4/14/2024 270,000 1,155,000
Global Health Supply Chain Management (GHSCM-PSM) 4/20/2015 11/28/2023 176,568 4,200,167
Local Health Systems Sustainability (LHSS) * * * 1,988,046
Total $295,425,524 $103,451,237

Note: Numbers have been rounded. *Start and end dates, and total estimated costs were not provided for this program.

Source: USAID, response to SIGAR data call, 7/18/2023.

Recent Developments

An Afghan woman poses for a photo for UN Women Afghanistan. (UN Women Afghanistan photo)

Humanitarian Crisis Update

This quarter, the number of people in need of life-saving assistance in Afghanistan increased by an estimated 500,000, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Although Afghanistan is experiencing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with a total of 28.8 million people in need, Taliban policy has made aid provision in Afghanistan more difficult than ever. The Taliban continue to bar Afghan women from working with NGOs and the UN, which UN Secretary-General António Guterres said is putting the lives of women in jeopardy and undermining Afghanistan’s socioeconomic development. Although the UN has said the Taliban’s directives conflict with its founding principle of nondiscrimination, on May 2, 2023, Secretary-General Guterres announced the UN’s decision to stay in Afghanistan to continue aiding the Afghan people. “Humanitarian aid is a fragile lifeline for millions of Afghans,” he said. However, the UN humanitarian effort is shifting in response to difficult operating conditions and waning donor support. In June 2023, the UN reduced the funding goal for their 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan by over $1.3 billion, a nearly 30% cut. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the economy and the level of poverty in Afghanistan are very sensitive to humanitarian assistance. In a recent report, UNDP predicted that even a 30% cut in aid this year would ensure the economy continues to decline. Moreover, with a rising population outpacing economic growth, Afghanistan will be locked into a poverty trap “for the foreseeable future” unless the Taliban change their policies and prioritize sustainable growth.

Humanitarian aid is a fragile lifeline for millions of Afghans

Secretary-General Guterres announced the UN’s decision to stay in Afghanistan to continue aiding the Afghan people.

USIP Report Says Taliban View UN Assistance as “Revenue Stream”

This quarter, an analysis prepared by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) for USAID found that the Taliban are “pushing for ever-increasing degrees of credit and control over the delivery of aid,” particularly aid from the UN, since most donor funding is routed through the UN system. USIP reported, “According to multiple UN officials across different agencies, the Taliban have effectively infiltrated and influenced most UN-managed assistance programming.” The Taliban move to control foreign assistance is one facet of an intensive strategy to consolidate power under their supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada, suppress external criticism and dissent, and co-opt internal stakeholders and constituencies. USIP characterizes the Taliban’s approach as a pursuit of “an exclusive monopoly over state power and many other avenues of authority, including economic activity and social engineering.”

USIP said the UN has navigated a complex, and increasingly restrictive, dynamic with the Taliban since the group took power. Humanitarian organizations have faced an ethical dilemma in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, recognizing that withdrawal of aid due to the Taliban’s restrictive governance would leave millions of Afghans without life-saving resources. At the same time, Taliban intentions have often been opaque. Since 2019, the Taliban had “broadcast a range of public statements, diplomacy, and informal activity designed to suggest they were open to measures of political inclusivity.”

According to the report, the UN’s sentiment following the takeover was that the Taliban just needed to “find their footing.” A senior UN official for Afghanistan, Markus Potzel, told the UN Security Council in September 2022 that Afghanistan’s future depended on engagement with the Taliban. At the time, Potzel called the international community’s relationship with the Taliban “pragmatic,” but in the months since, the Taliban have “increasingly suppressed” Afghanistan’s pluralistic civil society and “undertaken a sweeping range of initiatives” to transition from an insurgency to an authoritarian state. These measures include broad restrictions on women’s rights, which fundamentally conflict with the UN’s founding principles. As the Taliban cement their authoritarian rule, foreign aid organizations are faced with “a steadily increasing trend of interference.” Yet, donors continue to fund UN operations given the level of need in the country.

An Afghan potter displays a clay pot inside his shop in Kabul in July 2023. (AFP photo by Wakil Kohsar)
An Afghan potter displays a clay pot inside his shop in Kabul in July 2023. (AFP photo by Wakil Kohsar)
An Afghan potter displays a clay pot inside his shop in Kabul in July 2023. (AFP photo by Wakil Kohsar)

According to USIP, the Taliban are “moving toward sweeping suppression of external criticism and dissent,” achieved through intimidation and violence. The Taliban operate under the assumption that “the threat of force and raw power can compel any desirable outcome.” This is exemplified by the Taliban approach to foreign NGOs in Afghanistan. The Taliban will “accept foreign funded and provided goods and services as long as they are delivered in a suitably low-profile, apolitical fashion, and with immediate tangible benefit.” Any sign of political dissent is met with the threat of force. USIP argues that “This trend has been accompanied by the Taliban’s growing tendency to attempt to increasingly control delivery,” through monitoring, restricting access, and controlling organization operations. The Taliban have also sought to consolidate control over the former government ministry offices that oversee foreign aid, development, and international funding. The UN reported that many civil servants in these offices were dismissed and replaced by Taliban loyalists 8–10 months after the Taliban seized power. With this turnover came a “wave of increasing encroachment by certain offices into the practices of aid organizations—perhaps most notably in the emerging requirement for NGOs and agencies to sign restrictive/invasive MOUs.”

The Taliban encroachment into NGO activity is primarily experienced at the local level between the Taliban and humanitarian implementing partners, wherein district and provincial officials agree to operating conditions in exchange for control, credit, and material benefits. The lack of official guidance on civil governance at the district and provincial levels “has sustained a great degree of regional variation in Taliban ‘policies’ or community relations.” This dynamic of continuing operations under limiting conditions primarily applies to NGOs, whereas civil society organizations (CSOs), such as local women’s non-profits, face much greater scrutiny. USIP reports that “one key factor in [this] dynamic may be the intangibility of the benefits of CSO programming; the more concrete an organization’s deliverables are, the more appealing.”

The Taliban’s interference into NGO activities leaves humanitarian workers incredibly vulnerable. “Any form of humanitarian or development assistance is prone to manipulation by the Taliban. Aid/development delivery largely relies on national staff in field locations, which exposes them to Taliban coercion with little leverage or recourse to resist,” USIP reported. This exposure is heightened by the lack of legal recourse for NGOs and their employees in Afghanistan. The Taliban have not adopted a formal constitution, nor is there “any real form of written legal code.” Law is instead understood through the individual religious jurisprudence of the judiciary, which may or may not be independent from other power structures, according to USIP. As a result, the law is inaccessible to anyone outside the Taliban.

In addition to controlling NGO activities on the ground, the Taliban are attempting to control the narrative in Afghanistan by seeking to win credit for the aid delivered, possibly due to their understanding that the economy is “growing very slowly” and “future revenue growth may be weak,” limiting funds for Taliban-driven civil society spending. USIP describes the Taliban’s stance as one of “pragmatic opportunism,” accepting NGOs that provide the most “perceived utility.” However, this does not dispel the concurrent “sense of suspicion, even hostility” felt by the Taliban; instead, animosity toward foreign-funded aid is increasingly encouraged by Taliban leadership. USIP notes that historically, “the more comfortable [the Taliban] grew in any given area, the less tentative they proved to be when it came to asserting their authority over NGO operations and most other aspects of society.”

A farmer works a field in Bamyan Province near the remnants of a Buddha statue destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
A farmer works a field in Bamyan Province near the remnants of a Buddha statue destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
A farmer works a field in Bamyan Province near the remnants of a Buddha statue destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

The UN’s continuing deference to the Taliban, the intimidation and coercion of local UN staff, the lack of singular UN policy/collective bargaining power, and a limited understanding of the security environment has made the UN vulnerable to Taliban influence, USIP reported. Furthermore, the failure to create a national-level donor strategy for engagement with the Taliban has allowed the regime to shape restrictive boundaries of such engagement, such as crafting a “Code of Conduct” for NGOs and foreign organizations, and forcing humanitarian assistance partners to sign MOUs with Taliban line ministries and Taliban intelligence services. According to USIP, the Taliban-UN relationship “may be summarized through the understanding that the Taliban appear to view the UN system as yet another revenue stream, one which their movement will seek to monopolize and centralize control over.” USIP suggests this UN “revenue stream” is especially attractive due to the widespread “means of profiting from engagement with the UN,” none of which (outside of taxation) are official sources of government revenue owed to Taliban leadership.

Inspector General John Sopko raised the issue of Taliban access to foreign aid in testimony to the House Oversight and Accountability Committee on April 19, 2023, warning that SIGAR could not guarantee that U.S. funding intended for impoverished Afghans was not falling into the hands of the Taliban. SIGAR also warned in its 2023 High-Risk List about increasing Taliban interference with UN and NGO activities, and the Taliban’s access to international funds through various direct and indirect customs charges, taxes, and fees.

Moreover, at the time of IG Sopko’s April testimony, SIGAR had already received numerous allegations of Taliban diversion and inadequate protection of humanitarian assistance programs. Unfortunately, these concerns were dramatically confirmed by almost every person SIGAR interviewed in London who had access to information from people working or living in Afghanistan.

As the UN seeks to raise $3.2 billion for humanitarian assistance in 2023, it is necessary to provide vigilant oversight to ensure that the money actually goes towards helping the Afghan people, rather than to empowering the Taliban. SIGAR has a performance audit and a lessons-learned report underway assessing the provision and oversight of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s access to these resources.

The assertions in the USIP report are supported by this ongoing work, including work responding to a March 13, 2023, request from the Chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs.

SIGAR’s Lessons Learned Program is focusing on the challenges faced by donors, the UN, and NGOs in trying to get aid to the most vulnerable populations while bypassing politically estranged regimes, like the Taliban. The report will compare the current challenges to aid delivery in Afghanistan to other especially difficult contexts, like Sudan and Syria. While this research is ongoing, SIGAR has heard allegations from dozens of interviewees that diversion of aid and interference into aid delivery by such regimes is common. The report will make recommendations

Source: USIP, Political Economy Analysis of Afghanistan, 5/2023, pp. 4–41; UN, “Afghanistan’s Future Depends on Taliban’s Engagement with World,” 9137th Meeting, Meeting Notes, 9/27/2023,; SIGAR, High Risk List 2023, 4/19/2023, p. 2; House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, “Comer Demands Biden Administration Cooperate with Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction,” 5/23/2023,

UN Activities in Afghanistan

UN Cash Shipments into Afghanistan Continue

Due to the disruption to international banking transfers and liquidity challenges since August 2021, the UN transports cash to Afghanistan for use by UN agencies. According to UNAMA, all cash is placed in designated UN accounts in a private bank; none of the cash brought into Afghanistan is deposited in the central bank or provided to the Taliban. UNAMA further states that the cash brought into Afghanistan for use by the UN and its approved partners is carefully monitored, audited, inspected, and vetted in accordance with UN financial rules and processes.

According to the World Bank, continued UN cash shipments have helped stabilize the local currency. During January–May 2023, approximately $760 million was flown into Afghanistan, while in 2022, a cumulative $1.8 billion in cash was delivered. The UN reports that since December 2021, 19 UN entities, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and 48 approved NGOs have accessed the UN cash transfer facility. Since June 2022, participating organizations can choose to receive their bank notes at any bank in Afghanistan. However, UN Special Representative to Afghanistan Roza Otunbayeva, in a briefing to the UN Security Council on June 21, 2023, said that UN cash shipments are expected to decrease as donor funding declines. She noted, “this could begin having a negative effect on monetary stability.” In June 2023, the UN decreased the funding request for the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan in light of Taliban decrees barring women from working for the UN or NGOs.

This quarter, U.S. government agencies did not report any instances of the Taliban siphoning cash from UN shipments or collecting royalties or charging fees on cash shipments. The UN, NGOs, and other entities involved in aid efforts have paid administrative fees to various Taliban ministries, and these fees are captured by the Taliban in inland revenue accounting

UN Maintains Operations Despite Taliban Ban on Women

In May 2023, the United Nations resumed humanitarian operations in Afghanistan following a brief suspension in response to an April 4 Taliban directive barring Afghan women from working for the UN. On April 11, the UN had ordered its 3,300 employees to stay home while it conducted an operational review. Special Representatives for Afghanistan from UN member states then met May 1–2 in Doha, Qatar to discuss the humanitarian, human rights, and political situation; Taliban representatives were not included.

[t]o achieve our objectives, we cannot disengage…the UN will continue to use its convening power to advance a forward leaning approach, which puts the Afghan people first, and in a manner that is complementary to existing regional platforms and initiatives.

UN Secretary-General Guterres told the press on May 2, 2023.

New UN Strategic Framework for Afghanistan

In addition to revising the Humanitarian Response Plan to reflect the challenging reality in Afghanistan, on July 3, 2023, the UN released a new Strategic Framework for Afghanistan 2023–2025. According to the Framework, Afghanistan is “in the midst of a crisis on an unprecedented scale,” and due to the vast needs of the Afghan people, and the deterioration of human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment, the UN will continue to provide aid based on its principle of “leaving no one behind,” despite the Taliban’s actions.

It further states that in order to address long-term human suffering, humanitarian interventions must build resilience to shocks; sustain livelihoods; protect human rights and fundamental freedoms; strengthen social cohesion and build social capital; and preserve the development gains of the past two decades. The United Nations Country Team, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, developed three guiding priorities to support the needs of the Afghan people over a “longer-term planning horizon.” These priorities include:

  • Priority One: Sustained Essential Services
  • Priority Two: Economic Opportunities and Resilient Livelihoods
  • Priority Three: Social Cohesion, Inclusion, Gender Equality, Human Rights, and Rule of Law.

Taliban Escalates Interference with NGO Work

Afghan women hand-weaving carpets in Bamyan, 3/2023. (Twitter photo from @USAIDAfgMD)
Afghan women hand-weaving carpets in Bamyan, 3/2023. (Twitter photo from @USAIDAfgMD)
Afghan women hand-weaving carpets in Bamyan, 3/2023. (Twitter photo from @USAIDAfgMD)

This quarter, Taliban interference with NGO work escalated, leading to a steady decline in humanitarian access in 2023, with a 32% increase in incidents between January and May 2023 as compared to the same period in 2022. According to USAID’s Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), Taliban interference in humanitarian assistance is the main barrier to beneficiaries accessing aid in 2023. BHA reported to SIGAR that specific instances of Taliban interference, including attempted aid diversion and bureaucratic roadblocks, disrupted UN aid provision in Daykundi, Ghor, and Uruzgan Provinces this quarter. The most recent publicly available data from BHA show there were a total of 110 access incidents related to Taliban interference in April 2023 alone. According to analysis from USIP, the Taliban are comfortable accepting foreign support insofar as they can closely monitor the organizations, including restricting and controlling them, and claim some credit for the provision of the benefits.

Since December 2021, the UN has tracked 173 Taliban directives concerning humanitarian assistance, including 37 related to restrictions on female participation in aid provision. Directives are enforced haphazardly, and humanitarian actors rely on fragile verbal exemptions at the local level, but Taliban interference persists. The UN tracked 299 incidences with the Taliban between February and May 2023 alone.

Food Insecurity Continues While Funding Lags

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that 15.3 million people will face acute food insecurity between May and October 2023, including 2.8 million people in Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Phase 4 (emergency), as shown in Table E.1. The number of predicted food insecure people decreased from a high of 20 million over the winter due to sustained humanitarian assistance. Even with this improvement, Afghanistan remains one of the hungriest nations in the world, requiring substantive emergency food, nutrition, and livelihood support. Despite the high level of need, WFP has cut emergency food assistance to eight million people since April due to severe funding shortfalls. To sustain operations through winter 2023, WFP says it must raise $1.2 billion in funding through the Humanitarian Response Plan.

A widespread locust outbreak in northwest Afghanistan threatens crops. (Photo by UN/Hashim Azizi)
A widespread locust outbreak in northwest Afghanistan threatens crops. (Photo by UN/Hashim Azizi)
A widespread locust outbreak in northwest Afghanistan threatens crops. (Photo by UN/Hashim Azizi)

As of June, an ongoing locust outbreak is posing a large threat to the already precarious food insecurity situation. WFP estimates the locusts could destroy 25% of this year’s wheat harvest, worth $480 million.

Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Phase Description and Response Objectives

Food Insecurity Phase Technical Description Priority Response Objective
Food Insecurity Phase Technical Description Priority Response Objective
1 – None/Minimal Households are able to meet essential food and non-food needs without engaging in atypical and unsustainable strategies to access food and income. Resilience building and disaster risk reduction
2 – Stressed Households have minimally adequate food consumption but are unable to afford some essential non-food expenditures without engaging in stress-coping strategies. Disaster risk reduction and protection of livelihoods
3 – Crisis Households either:
  • Have food consumption gaps that are reflected by high or above-usual acute malnutrition; OR
  • Are marginally able to meet minimum food needs, but only by depleting essential livelihood assets or through crisis-coping strategies.
to protect livelihoods and reduce food consumption gaps
4 – Emergency Some households either:
  • Have large food consumption gaps which are reflected in very high acute malnutrition and excess mortality; OR
  • Are able to mitigate large food consumption gaps, but only by employing emergency livelihood strategies and asset liquidation.
to save lives and livelihoods
5 – Catastrophe/Famine* Households have an extreme lack of food and/or other basic needs even after full employment of coping strategies. Starvation, death, destitution, and extremely critical acute malnutrition levels are evident. (For Famine classification, area needs to have extreme critical levels of acute malnutrition and mortality.) URGENT ACTION REQUIRED
to avert/prevent widespread death and total collapse of livelihoods

Note: * Some households can be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) even if areas are not classified as Famine (IPC Phase 5). In order for an area to be classified Famine, at least 20% of households should be in IPC Phase 5.

Source: FAO and WFP, Hunger Hotspots FAO-WFP early warnings on acute food insecurity – June to September 2022.


Afghanistan Daily Life (AP Photo)
Afghanistan Daily Life (AP Photo)
Afghanistan Daily Life (AP Photo)

On June 25, 2023, Taliban supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada announced that illicit opium poppy cultivation had been eradicated in Afghanistan as a result of the Taliban’s April 2022 opium poppy cultivation ban. Afghan opiate industry expert David Mansfield said there was a preliminary, but noticeable cultivation reduction across southern Afghanistan, leading to the lowest levels of poppy cultivation since the Taliban’s 2000– 2001 ban. Helmand’s area for poppy cultivation decreased by almost 100% from April 2022 to April 2023. Similarly, Nangahar, a major poppy-producing province, saw an 84% reduction in poppy cultivation in the same period. However, Mansfield reported that it was too early to assess the Taliban’s narcotics ban’s efficacy across all points in the production chain and the cultivation decrease reflected farmers voluntarily not planting poppy crops in the 2022 planting season (October and November), following Taliban warnings; he also noted that the 2024 season will better show the 2022 ban’s effects, as farmers still have their 2022 opium crop to sell this year.

Other Narcotics in Afghanistan Continue to be Cultivated, Produced, and Traded

The impact of the Taliban’s March 2023 marijuana ban has been inconclusive, according to the State Department, but the Taliban have destroyed some ephedra plant labs and stockpiles, used in the manufacturing of methamphetamines. Ephedra prices remained stable this quarter, but were four to five times higher than in October 2022, when the Taliban closed a number of ephedrine and methamphetamine labs. While its prices remain competitive, methamphetamine is not a scalable income replacement for opium poppy, due to the required labor, storage, and accessibility, the State Department said. Though, the UN noted that drug traffickers are increasing methamphetamine production and trade, which were already on the rise prior to the Taliban’s takeover and 2022 opium ban. The UNODC reported that the Afghanistan-manufactured methamphetamine market is expanding in Southwest Asia.

Status of Funds

In accord with SIGAR’s legislative mandate, this section details the status of U.S. funds appropriated, obligated, and disbursed for Afghanistan reconstruction. As of June 30, 2023, the United States government had appropriated or otherwise made available approximately $147.06 billion in funds for reconstruction and related activities in Afghanistan since FY 2002. Total Afghanistan reconstruction funding has been allocated as follows:

  • $88.89 billion for security (including $4.60 billion for counternarcotics initiatives)
  • $35.59 billion for governance and development (including $4.22 billion for additional counternarcotics initiatives)
  • $6.31 billion for humanitarian aid
  • $16.27 billion for agency operations

Afghanistan Reconstruction Funding Pipeline

Since 2002, Congress has appropriated nearly $147.06 billion for reconstruction and related activities in Afghanistan, of which nearly $112.40 billion was appropriated to the six largest active reconstruction accounts. As of June 30, 2023, SIGAR calculates that approximately $1.70 billion of the amount appropriated to the six largest active reconstruction accounts remained available for possible disbursement.

Funds Remaining Available for Possible Disbursement (Balances Obligated but not Disbursed, Plus Balances Available for Obligation but not Obligated), June 30, 2023 ($ Millions)

DOD IG Finds DOD Mismanaged Afghanistan Security Forces Fund

The DOD IG released its Audit of the DoD’s Financial Management of the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund on June 13, 2023. The report found, among its many findings, that DOD improperly recorded $4.1 billion appropriated to the ASFF account as spent when ASFF funds were transferred to the FMS Trust Fund. DOD IG recommended that DSCA and OUSD/Comptroller assist SIGAR in reporting restated ASFF obligated and disbursed balances. SIGAR expects to publish these restated balances in its January 2024 Quarterly Report to the U.S. Congress.


Table D.1 is a comprehensive list of finalized suspensions, debarments, and special-entity designations relating to SIGAR’s work in Afghanistan as of June 30, 2023

Special-Entity Designations, Suspensions, and Debarments as of June 30, 2023