U.S. officials “cannot track progress, if any” in their efforts to advise and train Afghanistan’s military and domestic security forces, according to a new Defense Department watchdog report.
The independent audit of the Pentagon’s produced a murky picture of American operations in Afghanistan. U.S. military personnel and defense contractors are often deployed without adequate training on how to advise the Afghan Ministry of Defense, or MOD, and Ministry of Interior, or MOI, despite the high cost and importance of these operations, it said.
“The progress and impact of DOD’s advising efforts to build the MOD and the MOI capacity is unknown, despite U.S. funding over the past 3 years,” the special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction concluded in the new report.
That applies to military personnel as well as defense contractors, who have been paid $1.62 billion since 2010. ”DOD cannot track progress, if any, at the MOD and the MOI because the advising goals and rating system used to measure progress toward meeting those goals has frequently change,” the report says.
The report portrays the U.S. government as needlessly ignorant of key operations, even as policymakers and generals debate whether and how long to remain in the country.
“Although the MOD and the MOI advising effort is one of DOD’s primary missions in Afghanistan, the department has not fully planned, monitored, or evaluated the effort in accordance with its own requirements,” the inspector general wrote.
That uncertainty persists, even as U.S. officials and President Trump have tired of the conflict.
“It is time for this war in Afghanistan to end,” outgoing Army Gen. John Nicholson, who was the top NATO commander in the country for 2 1/2 years, said in September.
The Taliban has made multiple high-profile attacks on U.S. forces and the central government in Kabul, including an insider attack that wounded U.S. Army Gen. Jeffrey Smiley and forced Gen. Scott Miller — who replaced Nicholson as the top officer in the country — to draw his own weapon.
“My assessment is the Taliban also realizes they cannot win militarily,” Miller told NBC in an interview aired Wednesday. “So if you realize you can’t win militarily, at some point, fighting is just, people start asking why. So you do not necessarily wait us out, but I think now is the time to start working through the political piece of this conflict.”
The Defense Department concurred with all of the audit’s findings, including a warning about the high number of waivers granted that have resulted in the deployment of advisors who did not receive proper training. “[A]dvisors may not have the skills needed for the positions they are filling,” the audit warned. }In some cases, these untrained advisors could decrease the MOD’s and the MOI’s capabilities, and thus do harm to [the United States and NATO’s] overall goals for the advising mission.”