WASHINGTON: An official US report to Congress warns that the United States has not succeeded in raising a “fully capable” Afghan military despite 16 years of hard work and after spending more than $70 billion on the project.

The latest report by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruc­tion (SIGAR) also notes that Afghan ground forces now crave for air support and believe that an official Afghan Air Force is necessary for defeating Taliban insurgents.

The report points out that developing “a fully capable” Afghan National Defence and Security Force (ANDSF) that is able to secure Afghanistan from internal and external threats and prevent the re-establishment of terrorist safe havens has also been a US national security objective.

“Despite US government expenditures of more than $70 billion in security sector assistance to design, train advise, assist, and equip the ANDSF since 2002, the Afghan security forces are not yet capable of securing their own nation,” the report adds.

It also includes a quote from the former US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, warning that “America’s interagency toolkit [for building the security capacity of partner nations is a] hodgepodge of jerry-rigged arrangements constrained by a dated and complex patchwork of authorities, persistent shortfalls in resources, and unwieldy processes.”

Another senior US Department of Defence official Marin Strmecki warns, “It is not that the enemy is so strong, but that the Afghan government is so weak”.

The report states that the US and Afghan officials have differed over the nature and scope of a national military for Afghanistan from the very beginning. While the Afghans wanted a large military, capable of taking on Pakistan, US officials “believed that the greatest threat to Afghanistan’s stability was factional fighting, not Pakistan”.

Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2018

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