Today, the U.S. government watchdog for tax dollars spent in Afghanistan, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), released a supplement to the January 2015 quarterly report to Congress. As I noted in a previous article, at the end of January 2015 SIGAR announced in its 26th Quarterly Report to Congress that it could no longer publicly report on many aspects of the $65 billion effort to build up the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
The supplement published today contains information that received classified or otherwise restricted responses from the Pentagon, which has now been declassified. However, some information concerning corps-level Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) personnel strength data, future requirements for Afghan Air Force (AAF) equipment, the number of trained AAF pilots, and operational data on the Afghan Special Mission Wing remains classified.
Nevertheless, the report has two interesting findings.
First, the U.S. military’s inconsistent reporting on ANSF strength numbers indicates long-standing and ongoing problems with accountability and personnel tracking. For example, SIGAR has seen large quarter-to-quarter fluctuations in the ANA numbers — sometimes 20,000 personnel or more — without supporting documentation for the sudden change.
Second, the Afghan National Army (ANA) has declined by 15,636 (or 8.5 percent) since February 2014 to 169,203 personnel, the lowest assigned ANA force strength since August 2011. Attrition continues to be a major challenge for the ANSF. Between September 2013 and September 2014, more than 40,000 personnel were dropped from ANA pay rolls. Also, SIGAR analysis indicates a change in how Afghan National Police (ANP) numbers are calculated that raises questions about the accuracy of these numbers and the validity of the reported increase in personnel this quarter.
The report also states that none of the $25 million in authorized funds for programs for women in the ANSF have been used.
Back in January, less than a week after SIGAR submitted a classified annex to Congress, General John F. Campbell had informed SIGAR that Resolute Support Mission had reversed itself and declassified the bulk of the material it had classified only a few days earlier. According to the commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the rationale behind the initial classification of data was the fear that it could be exploited by Taliban insurgents.
In the introduction to the report, Special Inspector General John F. Sopko, recounts that just hours before this supplement was originally scheduled to be released, “General Campbell notified me that the ANSF strength numbers the military provided to SIGAR between April and October 2014 were incorrect due to an ‘accounting error.’ General Campbell’s email explained that after the accounting error was discovered in September, the U.S. military had given corrected numbers to the Department of Defense to use in the October 2014 edition of its congressionally mandated Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan.”
However, according to Sopko, the military failed to notify SIGAR of the error or provide updated numbers, despite the numerous times they had reviewed and approved SIGAR’s draft reports, including the January 2015 report, which contained the incorrect numbers. No explanation has yet been given as to why the corrected numbers were shared with the Pentagon, but not with SIGAR.
Sopko has also demanded additional explanation on the projected end strengths of the ANSF (the United States has spent about $50 billion on the ANSF over the last decade). There is some discrepancy in analyses over whether the end number of Afghan soldiers and policemen should be 352,000 or 373,000. Consequently, by this Thursday, the inspector general expects to receive further information from Gen. John F. Campbell and Major Gen. Todd Semonite, the two top U.S. commanders in Afghanistan. Sopko requested:
- The capabilities assessment and other analyses used to determine the current authorized end-strengths;
- Security objectives to be supported by the ANSF as well as the concept of operations for employing those forces;
- A breakdown of corps, echelon above corps, and Special Mission Wing assignments for current and planned ANSF end-strengths;
- A breakdown of personnel levels in the National Directorate for Security, the Afghan Public Protection Force, and the Afghan Local Police, as well as the civilian personnel levels in the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior;
- A description of the metrics and/or milestones that will be used to determine the timing and degree of the planned drawdown; and
- A copy of the force optimization report