Thursday, March 5, 2015

Afghan MoD Rejects SIGAR Report

A recent report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has revealed some alarming statistics about the Afghan National Army (ANA). In January 2015 SIGAR released its quarterly report to Congress on the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. SIGAR relies on ISAF (now called Resolute Support) to provide statistics on the ANSF. Last fall ISAF provided some ANSF information but - for the first time in years - some important data was classified. The news media and Congress questioned this new practice of classifying information that in years prior was released to the public. Resolute Support HQs reversed itself and released the data in early 2015. SIGAR has now issued a supplement to the January 2015 report to Congress which includes the updated, once classified figures.

The statistics provided in the updated SIGAR supplemental report are troublesome. ANA desertions, casualties, and discharges among its personnel is at an all-time high - and the ANA personnel strength is down almost 20,000. The ANA strength is now at 2011 levels (4 years ago). This is an alarming statistic. Couple this report about the ANA with a recent report about the personnel strength of the Afghan National Police (ANP) and its numerous "ghost policemen" and there would seem to be a big problem in the ANSF - one that Resolute Support Headquarters must be aware of but does not seem to be raising alarms about - at least publicly.

The Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD) issued a statement on March 4, 2015 rejecting the SIGAR report that indicated ANA soldiers were deserting en mass. But it did acknowledge a significant decline in its ranks. MoD claims it is exploring solutions to fix the problem. It should start with a review of its leadership and reduce corruption.

Leadership. The ANA has at all levels too many commanders who are ill-suited to be in leadership positions. Many do not take proper care of the soldiers in their units. Food is marginal, living conditions inadequate, medical care sometimes slow or non-existent, pay is erratic, and leave policies not followed. If ANA soldiers were treated better by their commanders then many would opt to stay in beyond their contracts and some less would be likely to desert.

Corruption. This remains one of the biggest problems in the ANA. Pay is taken from soldiers, food and fuel diverted to markets and the profits go to commander's pockets, and equipment meant for the ANA (vehicle repair parts) find their way into the bazaars. If corruption within the army was reduced more soldiers may be tempted to remain in the service of their country.

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