WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A key U.S. House of Representatives Democrat said on Monday she is cutting billions of dollars in aid to Afghanistan from spending legislation because she is outraged over reports of corruption and donor aid being flown out the country.
Representative Nita Lowey, who heads the House appropriations subcommittee on foreign aid, vowed not to spend “one more dime” on aid to Afghanistan until she can be sure it is not being abused.
The Democrat also announced hearings on corruption in Afghanistan, where the Obama administration is trying to work with the government of President Hamid Karzai to confront the Taliban insurgency.
An aide to Lowey said the Obama administration requested $3.9 billion for the accounts affected in the fiscal 2011 foreign aid appropriations bill before Lowey’s committee.
Lowey said in her statement she would only leave “lifesaving humanitarian aid” in the bill, which her committee will consider on Wednesday.
Her statement comes amid increasing doubts among U.S. lawmakers about President Barack Obama’s six-month-old troop buildup strategy against a resurgent Taliban.
She acted after a Wall Street Journal report on Monday said more than $3 billion in cash had been flown out of Kabul airport in the past three years, and that U.S. investigators think some of the money being flown out to safe havens is diverted U.S. aid.
On the same day, a report in the Washington Post said that top officials in Karzai’s government have repeatedly derailed corruption investigations of politically connected Afghans.
“The alleged shipment of billions in donor funds out of Afghanistan and allegations of Afghan government insiders impeding corruption investigations are outrageous,” Lowey said.
“I do not intend to appropriate one more dime for assistance to Afghanistan until I have confidence that U.S. taxpayer money is not being abused to line the pockets of corrupt Afghan government officials, drug lords, and terrorists,” she said.
Lowey said she would have hearings after Congress’ recess next week to “get to the bottom” of corruption allegations in Afghanistan.
The stripped-out assistance would include economic support funds for Afghanistan and money for things like narcotics control, military education and training, health and anti-terrorism, an aide said.
Funding to pay for the surge of 30,000 troops that Obama has ordered to Afghanistan would not be affected, although the House also has yet to vote on the $33 billion that the Pentagon requested for that. The Senate has approved those funds.
Editing by Vicki Allen