July 29 (UPI) -- Conducting oversight against waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer funds "will be much more difficult," but it can be done, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said in a new quarterly report published Thursday.
"SIGAR has been conducting oversight in Afghanistan since 2009 and operating 'outside the wire' for years, including after major troop drawdowns began in 2014," John Sopko, who was sworn in as the SIGAR in 2012, said in a cover letter included with the 52nd quarterly report stated.
The letter recommended steps to ensure that U.S. funds intended for reconstruction programs in Afghanistan meet their targets.
According to the report, some $6.7 billion is awaiting disbursement -- with additional billions expected to follow.
Sopko recommended Congress grant SIGAR and other oversight organizations access to all records pertaining to the use of the fund.
Additionally, he recommended reestablishing an Afghanistan Threat Finance Cell to identity fraud and establishing a Security Cooperation Office in the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to provide security assistance to the Afghan government.
A proposed State, Foreign Relations and Related Appropriations Bill 2022 makes strides by requiring the State Department to submit conditionalities in granting or withholding aid based on three factors.
"In addition to its own in-country staff of auditors and investigators, SIGAR makes use of informants, contract accounting firms, non-governmental organizations and contacts with Afghan government officials to gather information on U.S.-funded reconstruction activities," the report stated.
With the absence of a major troop presence -- which is down to fewer than a thousand compared to 110,000 almost a decade ago -- SIGAR said its presence and impact in Afghanistan takes on increased importance.
SIGAR was established in 2008 by the National Defense Authorization Act.
Its fiscal budget this year is $54.9 million, and is the only oversight agency with auditors and law enforcement investigators in Afghanistan.
Five of SIGAR's 174 employees are assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
Sopko told reporters this week that the U.S. has settled back into its original goal of making sure Afghanistan isn't a place where terrorist groups can plan or train for attacks on the United States, Military Times reported.