Our efforts to rebuild Afghan security forces has not exactly gone as planned. A new inspector general’s report offers some crucial lessons learned and recommendations.
The war in Afghanistan has now dragged on for 16 years — the longest war in U.S. history, and about four times as long as the United States’ involvement in World War II. Yet, the reconstruction effort has been plagued with tens of billions of dollars in waste and fragile local security forces, and still there is no end in sight, with President Donald Trump calling in August for further commitments and more troops in the troubled country.
It is against this backstop that John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, issued a damning report last week about the U.S. government’s failures to reconstruct the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, or ANDSF.
“The United States failed to understand the complexities and scale of the mission required to stand up and mentor security forces in a country suffering from 30 years of war, misrule, corruption and deep poverty,” the report found. It also criticized the government’s attempt to implement a “one-size-fits-all approach” to building security forces, and concluded: “The U.S. government is not well organized to conduct large-scale security-sector assistance missions in post-conflict nations or in the developing world.”
“The U.S. government lacks a deployable police-development capability for high-threat environments, so we have trained over 100,000 Afghan police using U.S. Army aviators, infantry officers and civilian contractors,” the report continued. “One U.S. officer watched TV shows like ‘COPS’ and ‘NCIS’ to learn what he should teach.”
Politics also played a role in the reconstruction’s shortcomings. “U.S. military plans for ANDSF readiness were created under politically constrained timelines, rather than based upon realistic assessments of Afghan readiness,” SIGAR…