Monday, May 01, 2017

U.S. watchdog finds major internal flaws hampering Afghanistan war effort - washingtonpost

 Afghanistan’s security forces are experiencing “shockingly high” casualties and conflict has displaced record numbers of civilians, a U.S. government watchdog said in a report Sunday on the grim challenge facing the country as it confronts the Taliban and other insurgencies with drastically reduced support from the United States and other NATO partners. 

In its quarterly report to Congress, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) urged the Trump administration — which is reviewing U.S. policy toward Afghanistan at a time of sustained Taliban aggression and diminished American assistance — to take a hard look at its programs and priorities and to focus aid more narrowly.

“Security is the most obvious and urgent challenge” to rebuilding the country after 16 years of war, the report said. It noted that since 2002, 61 percent of the $71 billion in U.S. reconstruction aid has gone to train, equip and support the 300,000-strong Afghan defense forces. 

Nevertheless, the SIGAR report said, those forces continue to be hampered by internal problems — such as poor leadership and corruption — as well as by an agile and determined foe that is making it difficult for them to control territory. It noted that more than twice as many Afghan soldiers and police personnel were killed in 2016 as the 2,400 U.S. troops lost since 2001. 

The report said the Afghan armed forces are also plagued by illiteracy, an attrition rate of nearly 35 percent and overreliance on highly trained special forces for routine missions. A previous report by Sopko’s office described military officers reselling supplies and food intended for combat troops. Such problems, the new report said, are “corrosive” and can undercut civilian progress in health care, rule of law and efforts to counter the soaring drug trade.

“Opium production stands at near record levels,” the report noted. “Illiteracy and poverty remain widespread. Corruption reaches into every aspect of national life. The rule of law has limited reach. Multiple obstacles deter investors. . . . The ranks of the jobless grow as the economy stagnates.”

Sopko said that the United States has a cooperative and “willing partner” in the government of President Ashraf Ghani and that senior Afghan officials “really care about improving their country,” but he said they have been frustrated by old systems of ethnic patronage and palm-greasing that discourage building institutions based on professionalism and merit. - Read More


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