- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Even as the U.S. takes a deeper role in Afghanistan the situation there is getting worse, with armed clashes at an all-time high, insurgents controlling more territory and civilian casualties from pro-government forces up 52 percent this year, an inspector general told Congress Tuesday.

U.S. forces dropped more munitions in September than any point since 2012, as troops take on a more aggressive combat role under President Trump’s leadership.

But American combat casualties are increasing, with 10 U.S. troops killed from Jan. 1 through Aug. 23 and another 48 wounded. That’s double the period from 2015 and 2016, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said.

Afghanistan’s own security forces, meanwhile, are struggling to maintain ranks, with the army dropping by 4,000 troops and the national police losing 5,000 people, according to the new audit.

“Afghanistan is at a crossroads,” said John F. Sopko, the inspector general. “President Donald Trump’s new strategy has clarified that the Taliban and Islamic State-Khorosan will not cause the United States to leave. At the same time, the strategy requires the Afghan government to set the conditions that would allow America to stay the course.”

The new report is the 37th quarterly study the inspector general has delivered to Congress, and Mr. Sopko said he’s running into new problems with the U.S. military for the first time declaring some important information classified.

That means the public no longer has a way to judge whether the tens of billions of dollars U.S. taxpayers have invested in Afghan security forces are paying off.

Examples of waste are myriad. In one instance, nearly $500 million was wasted on planes bought from Italy that couldn’t operate in Afghanistan.

As for Afghan forces, they’re still plagued by readiness problems and corruption. Auditors said there are thousands of “ghost” soldiers on the personnel rolls, with commanders pocketing the paychecks for the nonexistent soldiers.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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