The DoD Inspector General (IG) revealed in a report last week that military authorities could not confirm whether the $3.1 billion in funding for the Afghan government fulfilled its intended purposes. According to the report, insufficient US oversight and Afghan capability led to mismanagement and an overall lack of assurance as to exactly where DoD funds ended up.
The funding provided by Combined Security Transition Command–Afghanistan (CSTC-A) to the Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Ministry of Interior (MoI) from 2014 through 2017 was meant to “increase ANDSF effectiveness and capabilities so the ANDSF can become more professional and increasingly self-sustaining.” Specifically, the $3.1 billion supported improvement of Afghan ministerial capacities. This includes training for Afghan personnel to better track budgeting and allocation for supplies like ammunition, vehicles, and fuel needed to support ANDSF combat efforts around the country.
The goal of the CSTC-A funds was to develop an independent and self-sufficient Afghan ministerial sector capable of supporting ANDSF forces battling a resurgent Taliban insurgency. Without an established complex to supply ammunition, vehicles, and necessary supplies, ANDSF forces could be cut off from vital resources needed to take and hold territory. The DoD IG warned that the MoD and MoI are not reaching this level of self-sufficiency, summarizing that they lack effective inventory and budgeting capabilities, can’t properly maintain equipment, and are still reliant on US assistance.
For example, the DoD simply doesn’t know where some of the vehicles it supplied to the ANDSF ended up. The DoD IG found that “since 2005, CSTC-A officials obtained approximately 95,000 vehicles for the ANDSF; however, CSTC-A officials did not have an accurate inventory of the vehicles.” Some likely landed in Taliban hands, while others wound up back on base for repairs after being “reported as destroyed in battle.”
Vehicles also lacked a reliable workforce of mechanics to service them when they broke down. The IG noted that “officials did not provide sufficient training to the Afghan National Police to independently maintain its fleet of vehicles.” This shortfall led to DoD spending “approximately $21 million to replace engines and transmissions on vehicles” that Afghans could have otherwise fixed if properly trained to provide the needed maintenance for operational upkeep.
Shortfalls noted by the DoD IG show that Afghan forces are still heavily reliant on US and partner participation and guidance despite US and coalition efforts to build ANDSF capabilities so that the force can become self-reliant and take the fight to the enemy themselves. In one case the report notes that, “CSTC-A officials performed the ministerial functions related to fuel management, [while] MoD officials did not develop the skills to perform these duties.” Even while directly assisting, “CSTC-A officials do not have reasonable assurance that the fuel purchased was used for its intended purposes.”
Issues consistently plaguing US development of Afghan defense capacities
Two key problems persist across many US efforts to build up Afghan government and military capabilities. First, US and coalition partners can’t find proper or reliable training mechanisms to effectively teach Afghans the skills they need for self-reliance. Combat and policing training has been significantly misguided at times, and the Army is just now developing new training units tailored to the development of foreign forces, with the ANDSF serving as a worthy first test. In this vein, the DoD IG report notes poor training of ministerial skills to Afghans as a primary shortfall of CSTC-A’s fund management.
Second, even when US and coalition forces find proper training resources and teachers, they’re faced with an Afghan population that still struggles with rampant illiteracy rates and limited computer skills. This makes for a small talent pool and a prolonged learning curve on new systems and skills. This problem is particularly exacerbated when US efforts or funding hit the local operational level.
The recurrent difficulties described in the DoD IG’s report can also be found in numerous reports issued by SIGAR when tracking ANDSF force strength and development.
You can read the full DoD IG report here.