John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), has accused the US State Department and Department of Defense for suppressing information on the collapse of Afghanistan’s former government and its security sector disintegration.
Sopko said on Friday that an overarching picture of the Afghan state collapse cannot be made unless the State Department and DOD release restricted information.
“The full picture of what happened in August - and all the warning signs that could have predicted the outcome - will only be revealed if the information that the departments of Defense and State have already restricted from public release is made available," Sopko said.
Sopko said SIGAR in recent years reported shortcomings and problems inside Afghanistan that finally led to the collapse. “Those of you who have followed SIGAR’s work know that many of the reasons for the unexpectedly quick collapse of the Afghan government are problems that SIGAR has reported on for years – corruption; ghost soldiers; the dependence of the Afghan military on US airpower, contractors, and other enablers; and incompetent Afghan leadership, to name but a few.”
According to Sopko, the State Department asked the agency to redact information from its reporting during the evacuation from Afghanistan due to security risks, while their findings show there had not been such risks.
“State requested we redact Ashraf Ghani’s name from our reports. While I’m sure the former President may wish to be excised from the annals of history, I don’t believe he faces any threats simply from being referenced by SIGAR,” he added.
“But we all know that US agencies have not made honest reporting easy for SIGAR. We have a recent example of this bureaucratic inclination to try to restrict public information,” he said.
According to Sopko, the DOD has restricted information on the capacity and performance of the Afghan security forces, adding that if that information were made available to the press and the US congress, it would have made it easy for the congress to assess the situation in Afghanistan. “Yet SIGAR was forced to relegate this information into classified appendices, making it much more difficult for Members of Congress to access the information, and completely eliminating public and press access to and discussion of that information.”
“DOD restricted from public release a range of information going back to 2015 on the performance of the Afghan security forces, purportedly at the request of the Afghan government. This included information such as casualty data, unit strength, training and operational deficiencies, tactical and operational readiness of Afghan military leadership, comprehensive assessments of Afghan security force headquarters leadership; and operational readiness rates down to the corps level,” Sopko said.
Sopko also said: "Recently, I received a second letter from the State Department. They stated they had reviewed the relatively few materials remaining on SIGAR’s website and included a spreadsheet containing roughly 2,400 new items they requested redacting."
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