- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Afghan National Defense and Security Forces have gone multiple winters without the appropriate cold-weather uniforms and will not have enough cold-weather gear for the 2015 and 2016 winters, according to a new report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. 

Special Inspector General John F. Sopko highlighted the shortage in a letter sent Monday to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Chritine E. Wormuth, U.S. Central Command Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin III, and the Commander of the Resolute Support Mission and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan Gen. John F. Campbell. 

“Based on our preliminary review, it appears that the ANDSF will not have enough cold-weather clothing for 2015 and 2016. A lack of cold-weather clothing could adversely impact the overall effectiveness of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP), and degrade their operational capabilities,” Mr. Sopko wrote. 

Many members of the Afghan security forces have been gone without winter coats since 2011, the letter said. 

Afghanistan is known to have severely dry, cold winters, particularly in the northeastern part of the mountains where temperatures reach subarctic levels. 

The shortages occurred after the Pentagon transferred responsibility for ordering cold-weather gear for Afghan security forces to the Afghan Ministries of Defense (MOD) and Interior (MOI). The U.S. still remains the main source of funding for the gear. 

In April 2013, the Defense Department raised concerns that some U.S.-funded clothing contracts did not comply with the law and informed MOD and MOI that the Pentagon would not reimburse the cost of the cold-weather uniform orders. The ministries subsequently cancelled all clothing contracts awarded that year and have not awarded any clothing contracts since, the letter said. 

The contract cancellations resulted in clothing shortages across the Afghan security forces. Coalition supervisors determined the Afghan National Police “had gone without proper uniforms for two years” and were “approaching [their] third winter without proper uniforms,” Mr. Sopko wrote. 

Pentagon officials responsible for tracking equipment orders for Afghan defense forces said all of the cold-weather clothing either delivered over the past year or slotted for delivery later in 2015 is destined for the Afghan National Police. But none has been ordered for or given to the Afghan National Army. 

“If correct, this means that the ANA has gone at least 2 years without obtaining cold-weather items,” Mr. Sopko wrote. 

The Defense Department has 335,054 coats on order for the ANA, but they are not expected to be delivered until March 2017.

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