Afghan forces far from self-reliant, says Sopko

KABUL (Pajhwok): Despite years of training and investment from global partners, Afghan security forces there are not yet self-reliant, says the head of a US watchdog. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said: “Achieving our counterterrorism reconstruction objectives depend on a strong, stable, democratic and self-reliant Afghanistan.”

However, Afghanistan was far from achieving self-reliance, John Sopko told the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security. He informed the panel that the Afghan forces were nowhere near achieving self-sufficiency, as they were unable to maintain their equipment, manage their supply chains or train new soldiers, pilots and policemen.

Afghanistan continued to depend on foreign assistance, creating both an opportunity for donors to influence events there as foreign troops prepared to exit the country. Reuters quoted the SIGAR as blaming the Taliban for failing to significantly change their high levels of violence, or military and political objectives. Sopko remarked security remained the most crucial and enduring high-risk area for Afghanistan. “Terrorist groups in Afghanistan like Daesh and al-Qaeda, although reduced, remain in the country.”

The ongoing peace talks in Doha, he claimed, raise questions and concerns about whether the fragile gains made by Afghan women and girls would be protected in a future peace deal. Sopko warned: “Discrimination persists, and possible policy changes by whatever form of government might follow an Afghan peace agreement could undermine women’s gains.”

He added that the UN Development Programme estimates that poverty in Afghanistan, defined as income of 2,064 afghanis per person per month (around $1 a day), has increased to 68% from its pre-pandemic level of 55%. He continued: “Afghanistan is poor and suffers from illiteracy, inadequate infrastructure, weak governance, and now, heavy impacts from the COVID19 pandemic.” The official claimed SIGAR investigations had unmasked corruption at virtually every level of the state — from salaries paid by international donors for ghost soldiers and police — to theft of US-military-provided fuel.