The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John F. Sopko, told a House subcommittee on Wednesday that his office is looking into allegations that former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani stole millions of dollars from the Afghani government as he fled the country in August.
In his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs panel, Mr. Sopko said fraud ran rampant throughout the U.S.-backed Afghan government throughout the two-decade war, including under Mr. Ghani, who took little action to root out corruption.
Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of New York, the top Republican on the International Development, International Organizations, and Global Corporate Social Impact subcommittee, referenced allegations that Mr. Ghani “fled with $169 million, as was reported by the BBC and other outlets.”
“We haven’t proven that yet,” Mr. 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, their central bank, and a number of other ministries walking off with millions of dollars,” he said. “We have not confirmed any of those yet.”
Mr. Ghani fled Afghanistan to the UAE on Aug. 15, just before Kabul fell to a swift Taliban offensive that toppled his government.
Mr. Ghani’s vice president, Amrullah Saleh, remained in Afghanistan after Mr. Ghani fled, declaring himself to be the “acting president” of Afghanistan on Aug. 17. He joined the anti-Taliban National Resistance Front (NRF) in the rugged Panjshir Valley north of Kabul.
The Biden administration hasn’t publicly backed Mr. Saleh.
Other members of the government and 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 reported that Mr. Ghani had fled the country with “four cars and a helicopter full of cash.” But a senior official in the Afghan government denied the reporting, and told CNN that Mr. Ghani fled with just the “clothes he was wearing.”
In a Facebook post last month, Mr. Ghani continued to deny the allegations.
“These charges are completely and categorically false,” Mr. Ghani said of the claims. “Corruption is a plague that has crippled our country for decades and fighting corruption has been a central focus of my efforts as president.”
Tuesday’s hearing was a continuation of a series of congressional probes into the Afghanistan withdrawal.
Mr. Sopko’s testimony was focused on how the U.S. might manage the challenge of extending humanitarian assistance to Afghans now ruled by the terrorist-aligned, Islamic fundamentalist Taliban government.
“We are in a very poor spot to try to help the women, the girls, and the average Afghans right now,” Mr. Sopko said.
He said the U.S. and international community face a difficult path ahead in providing aid to the Afghan people on the precipice of a humanitarian and economic disaster.
“We’ve lost all ability, first of all, to know how bad the situation is for women and girls, as well as a lot of other Afghans,” he testified. “But we also don’t have much leverage.”
Mr. Sopko said it is important to ensure the Taliban is held accountable for any assurances they offer in exchange for international aid.
“If we do any funding, and I’m not advocating that we give a dime to the Taliban government … remember what do they want,” Mr. Sopko said. “And how do we ensure that if we give them anything they want, we get something in return.”