State IG launches investigations into end of Afghanistan operations

The State Department’s inspector general is launching a series of investigations into the end of the Biden administration’s diplomatic operations in Afghanistan, according to State Department and congressional officials, as well as documents viewed by POLITICO.

The reviews will focus on the State Department’s Special Immigrant Visa program; Afghans processed for refugee admission into the U.S.; resettlement of those refugees and visa recipients; and the emergency evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul “to include evacuation of U.S. citizens and Afghan nationals,” according to an Oct. 15 action memorandum to Secretary of State Antony Blinken that was obtained by POLITICO.

Diana Shaw, the department’s acting inspector general, notified Congress of the move on Monday. In a separate letter to top lawmakers obtained by POLITICO, Shaw said her office was launching “several oversight projects” related to the end of the U.S. military and diplomatic missions in Afghanistan.

“Given the elevated interest in this work by Congress and the unique circumstances requiring coordination across the Inspector General community, I wanted to notify our committees of jurisdiction of this important work,” Shaw wrote in her letter, which was sent to leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as the intelligence committees in both chambers, among others.

Asked about the memo’s content, State OIG spokesperson Ryan Holden said “State OIG notified its committees of jurisdiction today of planned projects in the areas you mention. This work will be conducted in coordination with other members of the IG community. However, it is inaccurate to say that these projects are investigations. We indicated to Congress that these projects will be reviews.”

Those congressional panels, in addition to several others, have already launched separate reviews into various aspects of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was criticized by lawmakers from both parties as poorly planned and executed.

Other inspectors general offices, including those at the Defense Department and the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, are likely to also probe the events, which many critics argue was partly the result of a failure to properly coordinate among multiple departments and agencies in the weeks and months after President Joe Biden ordered a full withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country.

The Pentagon’s IG recently announced three reviews related to the evacuation: an evaluation of the botched drone strike in Kabul that killed 10 civilians instead of the Islamic State target; a review of DoD’s screening process for displaced Afghans; and an audit of DoD support for the relocation of Afghan nationals.

Lawmakers have taken a particular interest in the State Department’s SIV program, which was launched in 2009 to provide a pathway to immigrate to the U.S. for Afghan interpreters, their families and others who worked for the U.S. government throughout the 20-year war. The program has been plagued by bureaucratic challenges and delays since its inception. Before the August evacuation, there were some 18,000 applications stuck in the pipeline.

Alexander Ward contributed to this report.


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