After the Special Investigator General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) detailed it was ordered by Resolute Support to withhold key unclassified data on district control and the performance of Afghan security forces in its latest quarterly report, Resolute Support attributed it to “human error.” SIGAR countered with evidence that shows how Resolute Support – which is NATO’s command in Afghanistan – marked elements of the draft report that it did not want disclosed as “not releasable to the public,” and followed up with the US military on the classifications.
Ryan Browne, a national security reporter for CNN, noted after the release of the SIGAR quarterly report that Resolute Support attributed the omission of information on Taliban-held districts and data on the Afghan security forces was due to “human error.”
“The data is not classified & there was no intent to withhold it unnecessarily,” Resolute Support told Browne, and attributed the withholding of information to “confusion between NATO & US unclassified systems.”
.@ResoluteSupport: “Human error” caused restriction on @SIGARHQ public release of district & population control data in Afghanistan. “The data is not classified & there was no intent to withhold it unnecessarily.” Says confusion between NATO & US unclassified systems caused error
— Ryan Browne (@rabrowne75) January 30, 2018
SIGAR responded by releasing a section of the report, which corroborates Resolute Support marking the report on district and population control as follows:
“NOTE: Jan-Sec-37 1Q18 data call response was classified as NATO/RS UNCLIASSIFED [sic], which is not releasable to the public.”
Another section, on the readiness of Mi-17 helicopters, was similarly marked:
When Resolute Support notified SIGAR that the unclassified information was not releaseable to the public, SIGAR followed up with its point of contact, the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and was denied permission a second time.
“In an email, our POC [point of contact] advised us that the classification of information that was previously unclassified and the labeling of information as ‘NATO/RS Unclassified’ were [Resolute Support] determinations,” and that “OSDP [Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy] is not in a position to override RS’s application of ‘NATO/RS Unclassified.’ Therefore we did not include the information in our publicly available report,” SIGAR stated.
John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said that he has “yet to receive any formal notification that we are clear to release this information publicly.”
“If true, that’s great. I’m glad they finally came to their senses,” Sopko told FDD’s Long War Journal. “It’s unfortunate that they only did so after the press started to ask questions. We hope now they will release all the other important information they have unreasonably withheld from the American people.”