In his letters, Sopko was blunt, seeking immediate action from Congress, Blinken and Power to restore the cooperation his office has had with their agencies in the past.
“I respectfully request that you direct State and USAID officials to cease their illegal obstruction of SIGAR’s oversight work and to provide the requested information and assistance without further delay,” he wrote to Blinken and Power.
Sopko said his staff had requested numerous documents and interviews with officials who were involved in the chaotic withdrawal and aftermath last July but had been stonewalled for several months. He said those requests involved information about the evacuation and resettlement of Afghan nationals as well as ongoing humanitarian aid and questions about whether that assistance might be transferred to the Taliban.
“It is now evident that offices and staff who have cooperated with similar requests in the past were being silenced or overruled by officials opposed to SIGAR’s independent oversight,” Sopko wrote.
The State Department said both it and USAID remain committed to assisting SIGAR's mission and would respond to the watchdog's allegations. But the department said it “had concerns about how some of SIGAR’s requests for information relate to their statutory jurisdiction."
The department said it had responded to a SIGAR complaint in April by pointing out that much of the information it was requesting was already being provided to Congress and an internal review of Afghanistan policy being conducted by all agencies in the administration.
State Department spokesman Ned Price did not have a direct response to the allegations in Sopko's letters but voiced the administration's unhappiness with SIGAR's last report, which concluded that the withdrawal had been poorly managed and that the collapse of the Afghan government and military had not been correctly predicted.
“Our view is that the report does not reflect the consensus view of the State Department or the U.S. government," Price told reporters. "Many parts of the U.S. government, including the State Department, have unique insights and developments in Afghanistan last year that were not captured in the report and we don’t concur with many aspects of the report.”
In addition, Price said the special inspector did not seek State Department input while drafting the April report and did not give the department the opportunity to review the draft before it was published.