Harder to assess Afghanistan’s local forces once U.S. troops leave, report says

Fewer U.S. troops in Afghanistan means it will be harder for military leaders to assess the readiness of local security forces; and the Pentagon currently has no plan on how to address the difficulties it might face in making sure Afghan forces are prepared before international troops leave, a new report found.

The Defense Department “lacks a plan for collecting, validating, analyzing and reporting” on Afghan Nation Security Forces (ANSF) during the drawdown, said an investigation from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Currently, U.S. and allied troops are acting as trainers and advisers to Afghan security forces, but the amount of support is expected to lessen as nearly all American troops are brought home by the end of the year.

Reviews of Afghan forces provide the Pentagon with a sense of how prepared the units are and whether they’re ready to protect the country and maintain peace. But officials told SIGAR that since a draw-down in personnel would lead to fewer assessments, they’re losing confidence in how useful the information will be going forward.

SIGAR said ANSF will largely be responsible for evaluating itself, and that military leaders have a small window of time to implement a strategy for improving the review process.

“Without such a plan, decision makers in the United States, other coalition countries, and the Afghan government may not have reasonable assurance that the ANSF is making progress toward becoming a self-sustaining force that is capable of assuming full security responsibility for Afghanistan,” the watchdog said. “Without an updated plan DOD may not be able to make fully informed decisions based on ANSF capability.”

U.S. Forces — Afghanistan said they have already issued guidelines on what information is critical to reviews of military units and will continue to work with both Afghan and international troops to increase the reliability of the assessments.

Shoring up the ANSF has been one of the biggest U.S. goals to help maintain a peaceful nation once international troops withdraw. Since 2005, the U.S. has spent $53 billion on preparing the ANSF, with the current goal of having 352,000 personnel in the force.

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