Afghan Special Mission Wing Lacks Personnel, Expertise

The Afghan Special Mission Wing—charged with counternarcotics and counterterrorism operations—does not have enough personnel or expertise to conduct its mission, according to a report from the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Still, the Defense Department is moving forward with a $772 million plan to procure 48 aircraft—30 Mi-17 helicopters and 18 PC-12 fixed-wing airplanes—for the fledgling Afghan wing, states the June report. As of late January, SMW had just one-quarter of the personnel needed to reach full strength. Recruiting challenges include finding literate Afghans capable of passing the stringent US vetting process, states the report. The Afghan defense ministry and interior ministry also have failed to reach an agreement for the wing’s command and control structure, which also is slowing recruiting. Although DOD contractors currently provide 50 percent of the maintenance and repairs for the wing’s current force of 30 Mi-17s and 70 percent of maintenance and logistics management, there is no plan in place to transfer those functions to the Afghans, states the report. “We maintain that moving forward with the acquisition of these aircraft is imprudent,” states the report’s cover letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. (SIGAR report; caution large-sized file.)