A senior US lawmaker on Monday angrily blocked billions of dollars in aid to Afghanistan, vowing not to give “one more dime” until Afghan President Hamid Karzai acts against corruption.
Representative Nita Lowey, who sits on the powerful committee in charge of the budget, said she would hold hearings into allegations that top Afghan officials flew suitcases full of cash from US aid to foreign safe havens.
“I do not intend to appropriate one more dime for assistance to Afghanistan until I have confidence that US taxpayer money is not being abused to line the pockets of corrupt Afghan governmentofficials, drug lords and terrorists,” she said.
An aide to Lowey said that President Barack Obama’s administration requested 3.9 billion dollars in aid for Afghanistan in the 2011 fiscal year.
Lowey, a member of Obama’s Democratic Party from New York, said she would refuse to consider any assistance for Afghanistan other than “life-saving humanitarian aid” when her subcommittee meets on the budget on Wednesday.
“Too many Americans are suffering in this economy for us to put their hard-earned tax dollars into the hands of criminals overseas,” Lowey said in a statement.
“We will not commit billions more in taxpayer money for Afghanistan until there are assurances that such funds will be used for their intended purposes and that the government of Afghanistan is willing and able to root out corruption within its ranks,” she said.
Lowey heads the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. Her decision would not affect military appropriations, which are handled by a separate subcommittee.
Lowey was responding to a report in The Wall Street Journal that US investigators suspect that Afghan officials stuffed suitcases full of cash siphoned from Western aid projects and flew them out of Kabul airport.
The report said more than three billion dollars has been legally declared to leave Kabul International Airport over the past three years, a figure so large for such a poor country that it triggered concerns.
Transparency International, a watchdog, has ranked Afghanistan as the world’s most corrupt nation.