- The Washington Times - Friday, August 2, 2019

The number of present Afghan security forces is at the lowest level since 2015, according to the Pentagon’s latest Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction [SIGAR] report that chronicles the American and NATO-led mission to create a fully capable Afghan fighting force.

The 14% drop in personnel since last year — from 314,242 to 272,465 — is likely due to a change in how the force is now keeping track of staffing data.

According to the report, the Afghan security forces switched their way of reporting the number of personnel enrolled from the number reported on-hand, to the number enrolled in their pay system.

The Afghan Personnel Pay System, or APPS, was established to prevent higher-ranking security personnel from pocketing the paychecks of “ghost personnel,” which is expected to protect the more than $82 billion in U.S. funds that Congress has appropriated for Afghan security reinforcement.

There are presently 38 countries from around the world contributing roughly 6,500 troops to the current NATO-run advisory mission in Afghanistan dubbed Operation Resolute Support.



The forces back up some 8,000 U.S. service members who’ve been on the ground in Afghanistan since the end of full-fledged combat operations there in 2014.

The report comes as Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, continues talks with the Taliban and Afghan government that center on the U.S. ultimately withdrawing its forces from what is already the longest war in the nation’s history.

He characterized his latest talks as “the most productive to date,” John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction, wrote in his summary of the SIGAR report.

“Negotiators made substantial progress on all four interrelated parts of the peace process: counterterrorism assurances, conditional troop drawdown timelines, moving into intra-Afghan negotiations, and reaching a permanent and comprehensive cease-fire,” Mr. Sopko added.

However, he said the ability to implement the U.S. troop withdrawal from the country, a key campaign promise of President Trump, is “contingent on Taliban participation in intra-Afghan negotiations and upholding their counterterrorism commitments.”

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