A shadow has been cast over the U.S.-financed reconstruction effort of Afghanistan as the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) recently classified its assessments of the Afghan army and police, the single biggest expense of the reconstruction, effectively hiding what once was public information from the American citizen.
The United States has appropriated over $104 billion in taxpayer dollars to rebuild the war-torn country since 2002, after Operation Enduring Freedom, a.k.a. the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Of this $104 billion, an estimated $61.5 billion was used to rebuild Afghan’s army and police forces. For the past nine years, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has released portions of its assessments of the capabilities of Afghan’s army and police, but on Oct. 3, 2014, these assessment were suddenly declared classified.
This sudden classification “deprives the American people of an essential tool to measure the success or failure of the single most costly feature of the Afghanistan reconstruction effort,” wrote Special Inspector General John Sopko in his Oct. 2014 quarterly report to Congress. ISAF’s decision to classify the capabilities of the army and police at the “Restricted” level, and the overall tally of combat effective units at the “Secret” level, is “inexplicable” to Sopko, who was sworn in as the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) in July 2012.
This decision by ISAF suggests the United States’ $61.5 billion investment may be failing, and that this sudden classification of once-public reports is just a way to cover it up. The high attrition rate in the Afghan National Army would support this suggestion. In a November 2013 report, the Afghan National Army was said to have lost 34.4 percent of its personnel in the preceding twelve month period. SIGAR reports have also highlighted “growing gaps in Afghan police units’ proficiency.” Data reported in July 2014, before classification, indicated that only two of 18 regional components of the Afghan National Police were “fully capable” of training. This figure was reported to be five out of 18 in April, an inconsistency that may suggest the possibility that ISAF assessment methods change from report to report.
Only a few articles were published in response to ISAF’s decision to suddenly classify information regarding Afghan military training. The only corporate media outlets to do so as of December 6, 2014, were ABC News, which wrote its own report, and the Huffington Post, which carried an article reported and written by the non-profit Center for Public Integrity. However, any article that can be found on the subject is relatively short and lacks any in-depth analysis; the articles really only raise questions instead of answering them.
Julia Harte, “NATO suddenly classifies ratings of Afghan military and police capabilities,” Center for Public Integrity, October 30, 2014, www.publicintegrity.org/2014/10/30/16130/nato-suddenly-classifies-ratings-afghan-military-and-police-capabilities
SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction), Quarterly Report to the United States Congress, October 30, 2014, http://www.sigar.mil/pdf/quarterlyreports/2014-10-30qr.pdf.
Student Researcher: Andrew Richardson (Frostburg State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University)