Lack Of Spending Oversight Hampers Afghan Forces: SIGAR

A US watchdog says lack of coordinated oversight of America’s spending in Afghanistan has led to a waste of funds and hampered training and development of the country’s security forces.

In its report titled, Divided Responsibility: Lessons from U.S. Security Sector Assistance Efforts in Afghanistan, released on June 21, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, which monitors billions of dollars in US aid to the country, says America has so far spent more than $84 billion dollars on Afghan forces but they continue to suffer staggering losses and bleed personnel. Soldiers go home on leave and never return.

SIGAR’s report paints a troubling picture of a costly Afghan security development scheme, with multiple supervising US and NATO departments that don’t coordinate with one another.

The report says the “security sector assistance mission in Afghanistan lacked an enduring and comprehensive plan” from the start.

The report says that the security sector assistance mission in Afghanistan lacked an enduring and comprehensive plan to guide its efforts. Critical aspects of the advisory mission were not unified by a common purpose, nor was there a clear plan to guide equipping decisions over time. A former CSTC-A commander described the ANDSF as a “collection of compromises,” and compared looking at the ANDSF to “a cross-section of sedimentary rock [with] each year’s US budget priorities and ‘good ideas’ layered across older ones.”

The report says that the dual-hatted US-NATO commander did not have absolute authority over how the ANDSF was trained and advised in different parts of Afghanistan. “This created asymmetries in ANDSF development and impeded the standardization of security sector assistance programs,” the report adds.

SIGAR says in its report that security sector assistance efforts in Afghanistan have been hindered by the lack of clear command-and-control relationships between the US military and the US Embassy, as well as between ministerial and tactical advising efforts. It says that this has resulted in disjointed efforts to develop ANDSF capabilities.

The report mentions that the United States has not adequately involved the Afghans in key decisions and processes. As a result, the United States has implemented systems that the Afghans will not be able to maintain without U.S. support. As one former CSTC-A commander told us: “The Afghans were informed and directed, not asked or consulted…”

According to the report, most pre-deployment trainings did not adequately prepare advisors for their work in Afghanistan. Training did not expose advisors to Afghan systems, processes, weapons, culture, doctrine, and history.

The report says that NATO nations provided unique capabilities that the US government used to fill voids in US security sector assistance programs. However, problems with coordinating command-and-control hindered the United States’ ability to make the most of coalition support.

As per the report, the ANDSF were unable to fully leverage the benefits of US-based training efforts due to high AWOL rates, repurposing trained personnel to unrelated tasks once deployed back into Afghanistan, and ANDSF policies that conflicted with US-based training program deadlines. Because of these issues, the United States plans to stop all US-based aviation training for the Afghan Air Force by December 31, 2020, the report says.

And, the report also says that the US-based training of Afghan pilots and maintainers is routinely considered successful and a best practice. A DOD official stated that US-based training for the Afghans is “head and shoulders above aviation training in Afghanistan”, the report adds.

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