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WASHINGTON: The official US watchdog on Afghanistan — the Spe­cial Inspector General for Afgha­nis­tan Reconstruction (SIGAR) — has complained that it was receiving inaccurate information about the declining number of Afghan security forces.

In an addendum to its April 30 report to the US Congress, SIGAR complained that it continues to receive inaccurate data from the US forces in Afghanistan.

Inspector General John F. Sopko wrote to Congress that on May 10, US Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) informed SIGAR that they had previously provided inaccurate data to SIGAR about the actual force strength of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF). SIGAR had included those “incorrect” data in its quarterly report published on April 30 were incorrect.

“USFOR-A said the error in their original figures had been mostly due to their failure to account for the transfer of most of the Afghan Border Force (ABF), previously an Afghan National Police (ANP) force element, from the ANP to the Afghan National Army (ANA),” Spoko wrote.

According to this explanation, while the ABF personnel had already been dropped from the original ANP figure, they had not been added to the ANA figure. “USFOR-A did not indicate what other factors contributed to their erroneous reporting,” Spoko complained.

The incorrect numbers SIGAR received on March 23, 2018, for its April 2018 quarterly report, for ANDSF actual strength, were: ANA: 165,622, ANP: 130,787 and ANDSF: 296,409.

The new ANDSF strength figures, according to USFOR-A, are: ANA: 184,572, ANP: 129,156 and ANDSF: 313,728.

SIGAR receives all of the ANDSF personnel strength numbers published in the quarterly report from USFOR-A and has no means of independently verifying them.

Compared to January 2017 numbers, the revised January 2018 figures represent a 6,861-person gain for the ANA and a 24,841-person reduction for the ANP.

The new numbers still show that overall ANDSF strength declined sharply from January 2017 to January 2018, by 17,980 personnel, though not as sharply as USFOR-A originally reported to SIGAR in the April 2018 quarterly report based on the erroneous information provided by USFOR-A.

USFOR-A has not yet explained the reasons for the decline in the ANDSF force strength; SIGAR is following up with them. “This is the latest in a series of problems SIGAR has faced over the last three quarters with DOD’s responses to our requests for ANDSF information,” Spoko wrote in the addendum.

Established in 2008, SIGAR has a congressional mandate to solicit information from the US Defence Department. But over the past three quarters, NATO’s Resolute Support mission and USFOR-A have classified and restricted information from public reporting “in a seemingly haphazard fashion,” Spoko wrote.

SIGAR stated in its January quarterly report that the Resolute Support campaign restricted the watchdog from reporting land, population and district control data in Afghanistan for the first time. Resolute Support later said the restriction was a “human error,” and allowed SIGAR to publicly report the data, which showed record gains by the Taliban.

Recently, USFOR-A informed SIGAR that it will be the principal point of contact for what data the Department of Defence wants to restrict in the future.

In light of the problems described above, SIGAR respectfully requests the appropriate congressional committees and the secretary of defence to remind all Department of Defence components of their statutory duty to provide accurate and timely data concerning the ANDSF for SIGAR’s quarterly reports,” Spoko wrote.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2018