Afghans worried by U.S. interest in security spending

KABUL – A move by the U.S.-led force in Afghanistan to make public recently-classified data on Afghan security forces has been received skeptically by some Afghans.

Experts fear that a U.S. report on the data could be used to justify a greater western role in Afghanistan, if the current funding is deemed to be insufficient or ineffectively used. 

A report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the leading U.S. government oversight authority on the issue, led to this move.

The authority stated that after six years of being publicly reported, Afghan National Security Forces data is now being classified.  

“The decision leaves SIGAR unable to publicly report on most of the $65 billion U.S.-taxpayer-funded efforts to build, train, equip, and sustain the ANSF.  This includes Afghan troop numbers, salaries, training, equipment (including planes and helicopters), and infrastructure projects,” said the report. 

As a result of this report to U.S. Congress much of the data has now been declassified and in the process of review by SIGAR. 

Matiullah Abbasin, a political analyst based in Kabul fears the move as ulterior motives; he sees it as a tool to pressure the Afghan forces.

“Whenever the U.S. wishes to execute a strategic move Washington launches a propaganda campaign to pave way for that move,” he said.

“Last year, when they wanted to withdraw most of their troops, they started glorifying the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police but with this latest move of SIGAR investigating ANSF funds, they might just end up blaming them for being below standard, unfit to fight the growing threat of the ISIS and even being corrupt,” said Abbasin.

Since January, NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan has evolved into a training and support mission for the 300, 000-strong Afghan security forces. 

SIGAR has so far audited 37 U.S. funded projects worth over $3 billion and is undergoing the audits of 30 more projects.

It said this week that over 140 SIGAR questions, on topics ranging from Afghan forces salaries to funding for women, received "classified" or otherwise restricted responses from the U.S.-led force in Afghanistan.

The U.S. has spent more than $100 billion on aid to Afghanistan, about $65 billion of it in the security sector. Despite this huge investment many Afghans, especially in rural areas, are sceptical towards the U.S., partly due to the uneven distribution of funds and corruption that has denied them the fruits of development.

Former Afghan Defence Minister General Shahnawaz Tanai said transparent funding of the security sector will strengthen democratic norms in Afghanistan. 

“The over 13 years of foreign presence in Afghanistan proves that such moves have little impact on the ground situation, it is the ultimate strategic aims of the global powers that shape the situation,” he said. 

Tanai feared however that while President Ashraf Ghani may be competent and honest, his lack of political affiliation or strong-footing in the Afghan political arena means streamlining governance could be difficult and could ultimately expose weaknesses in the security sector.

The former Army Chief was of the opinion that the West, and especially the U.S., will have an extended stay in Afghanistan.

“There is no doubt that they (Americans) are here for good, the notion that they might leave Afghanistan all of a sudden as they did in the early 1990s is far away from reality,” Tanai said.

Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency