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True State of Afghan Military Kept Secret, Report Says

A U.S. government watchdog is "deeply troubled" by the allied military's decision to classify the summary of its report on Afghan forces.

A government watchdog says it is “deeply troubled” by the military’s decision to keep secret a report on the capabilities of U.S.-trained Afghan security forces, which are scheduled to take over the fight against the Taliban in 2015.

The quarterly report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which was released Thursday, notes that the allied military’s summary assessment of the readiness of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) had always been public until this quarter, when it became classified.

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“It is not clear what security purpose is served by denying the American public even high-level information,” says the report, which also says that attrition from the Afghan Army “remains a concern” as Afghan violence continues to rise. According to SIGAR, the decision by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to classify the executive summary of its report on Afghan forces “deprives the American people of an essential tool to measure the success or failure of the single most costly feature of the Afghanistan reconstruction effort.”

By Jan. 1, only about 12,500 international forces will remain in Afghanistan, most of them trainers and advisers. Fewer than 10,000 will be American. British troops ended combat operations in Afghanistan over the weekend, and the U.S. and the U.K. handed over two major bases to the Afghans.

SIGAR’s quarterly report to Congress also concluded that some U.S.-financed reconstruction projects “had perverse outcomes,” like expensive irrigation projects that seem to have increased opium poppy cultivation in three provinces. The report is focused on the threat of opium production to reconstruction, and follows a warning from the watchdog earlier this month that said opium production had hit record levels despite a $7 billion eradication effort by the U.S. government.

Since 2002, the U.S. has spent more than $104 billion on Afghan reconstruction, according to SIGAR, with another $14.5 billion still in the pipeline to be disbursed.