U.S. is ill-prepared to train Afghanistan’s security forces, says an inspector general’s report issued as 3,500 more U.S. troops are headed for the war zone.
A U.S. infantry officer in Afghanistan was tasked with training indigenous police. Lacking any law enforcement experience, he looked to TV shows like “Cops” and “NCIS” to fill in the gaps. A helicopter pilot was pulled from the cockpit and given the same assignment. John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, described those anecdotes in a bruising new review that found the U.S. is ill-prepared to build the war-torn country’s security forces, whose foundation is ravaged by decades of conflict, illiteracy and corruption, the Washington Post reports. Talent mismanagement, Sopko says, also undercuts such efforts. “We really do need to align capabilities to the needs of Afghans. Effective security forces are basically the way this thing ends,” Sopko said.
The report comes as 3,500 additional U.S. troops are headed to the war zone, where they’ll augment what’s become an Afghan-led campaign, bringing greater capacity to provide close air support and advise front-line special operations missions. Yet questions remain about how a modest increase of U.S. troops will help regain momentum in America’s longest war.It’s unclear how any effort to overhaul training and reinforce the Afghan security forces can be confidently executed amid the grueling missions to reverse Taliban gains. As of early May, more than 2,500 Afghan security forces had been killed this year, with more than 4,200 wounded. It is also unclear how quickly some of Sopko’s 35 recommendations can be implemented. Some recommendations, like deploying more civilian police trainers, could reasonably happen within months. More than $70 billion has been poured into building up the Afghan military and police, and yet the U.S. government lacks a “deployable police-development capability for high-threat environments,” Sopko said. The Justice Department has capacity for the mission but not the responsibility or funding, he said. The Pentagon has willingness and funding but lacks the capability among its military police to train Afghan police officers in civil law enforcement.