Illiteracy plagues Afghan forces despite $200M Uncle Sam tutoring program

A $200 million program to teach Afghanistan troops how to read is still leaving almost half of all security forces illiterate, a new report found.

Every member of the Afghan National Security Forces was to have a basic reading comprehension by the end of 2014, with half of all personnel reading at a third-grade level. Now, NATO officials said those goals are “unrealistic” and “unattainable,” according to a report released Tuesday by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

The program has been plagued by problems, including a turn-over rate of between 30 and 50 percent, casting doubt that those who do know how to read are still in the armed forces. Plus, the goal of having every troop literate was set when the security forces had roughly half the current population.

But the endeavor has also suffered from poor oversight that has left taxpayers on the hook for millions, SIGAR said.

“The lack of defined requirements for classes and length of instruction resulted in one contractor billing for classes held for as little as 2 hours a month and for multiple classes at one site that could have been combined into one class,” the watchdog said.

NATO officials said they are working with the Afghan National Security Forces to improve the program.

ANSF leadership holds a critical piece to ensure these goals are met, namely, to task/send their personnel to attend classes and ensure those they send are not absent,” a response from the multi-national organization said.

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