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The U.S. government's Afghanistan watchdog has asked the Pentagon to declassify a report about alleged sexual abuse of children by members of the Afghan security forces.
The request is noted in the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction's latest quarterly report, which also says that violence has increased by 21 percent since March 1 and that revenues produced by the country's opium crop doubled between 2015 and 2016, topping more than $3 billion.
The classified report on sexual abuse, which SIGAR recently issued to Congress, deals with how the U.S. military and State Department are implementing laws that prohibit the government from providing aid to another nation's security forces if there is credible information that human rights have been violated.
"At the request of a bipartisan, bicameral group of 93 members of Congress, SIGAR this quarter issued a report to Congress on DOD and State's implementation of the Leahy Laws in Afghanistan," says SIGAR's quarterly report. "Because DOD has classified much of the information on which the SIGAR report is based, the report is classified. SIGAR has requested that DOD declassify the report so that it can be released to the public."
A Defense Department official said the report is undergoing a security review and the information may be declassified. The official could not say why the information was classified in the first place.
The SIGAR report also details an increase in violence. Citing United Nations statistics, the report indicates there were 6,252 security incidents in the most recent quarter, which began March 1, up from 5,160 incidents in the previous quarter.
Historically violence has slowed a bit during winter months in Afghanistan as cold temperatures make travel more difficult in remote areas, but the number of incidents is also slightly up from the same quarter in 2016.
And while the SIGAR report says that Afghanistan's domestic revenues are down nearly 25 percent over this time last year, the local narcotics trade is booming, now producing 80 percent of the world's opium. A UN opium-cultivation report cited by SIGAR found that the estimated value of opiates produced in Afghanistan nearly doubled last year, from $1.56 billion in 2015 to $3.02 billion in 2016. Despite the U.S. investment of $8.6 billion to counter Afghanistan's illegal drug economy, the report says figures for 2017 are expected to grow even more.
The SIGAR report provides insight into the enormous amount of money that has been spent on all facets of the war in Afghanistan over the past 15 years. From an extra $28 million spent because the U.S. chose a proprietary camouflage pattern for the Afghan uniforms, to nearly $8.6 million granted for producing an Afghan version of "Sesame Street," the report finds that the U.S. has now spent an estimated $714 billion on both war fighting and reconstruction there.
The White House has yet to release the administration's new strategy for Afghanistan and south Asia, which will detail the way forward, including whether thousands more U.S. troops could be deploying in the coming months.