Unclear Picture on Afghan Forces Persists

The special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction has never done a “full blown assessment” on the health, capabilities, and disposition of the Afghan National Security Forces, SIGAR John Sopko told reporters in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Though SIGAR did go head-to-head with the Department of Defense over “bogus” data and information on the Afghan military earlier this year, Sopko said there are still large gaps of knowledge regarding the Afghan military’s size, strength, presence, and disposition. “The big problem is, although they are fighting and bleeding all over the country … we don’t know as a government how well a job they can do,” Sopko said. Now that the drawdown has taken place, the US has little visibility at even the “kandak,” or battalion level, of the Afghan Army. “We just have no presence,” he said. “I can’t give you an answer, and I don’t think our military can either,” at least not in an unclassified setting, he noted. The lack of understanding of numbers and data is concerning because of the influence they have on gauging funding and prioritization. “If you don’t have the numbers right, the whole thing is skewed,” he said.