SIGAR: Widely Cited 352,000 ANSF Force Size Is Not Validated

The January 2013 Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report has been out for some time now, but @SIGARHQ has still been tweeting about it regularly. One of their tweets yesterday brought my attention to the section of their report (pdf) where they discuss force size for Afghan National Security Forces. Since the interruption in training brought about by decreased interactions between US and Afghan forces during the  massive outbreak of green on blue attacks, I have maintained that the claim of 352,000 for ANSF force size was no longer credible. It appears that my skepticism is well-founded, as the pertinent section of the SIGAR report bears this heading:


The section begins:

Determining ANSF strength is fraught with challenges. U.S. and coalition forces rely on the Afghan forces to report their own personnel strength numbers. Moreover, the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A) noted that, in the case of the Afghan National Army, there is “no viable method of validating [their] personnel numbers.” SIGAR will continue to follow this issue to determine whether U.S. financial support to the ANSF is based on accurately reported personnel numbers.

There are several important bits to unpack in that paragraph. First, note that even though the US (well, officially, NATO) is training the Afghan forces, it is the Afghans themselves who report on their force size. It appears that our training of the Afghans, however, has not trained them on how to count personnel in a way that can be validated. But the end of the paragraph is the kicker, because it appears that our financial support of the Afghans is based on their own reporting of the force size. Since we are paying them for the force size they report, why wouldn’t they inflate the numbers to get paid as much as possible? The Afghans know that the bulk of US policy is built around the 352,000 force size myth, so they know that there will be absolutely no push-back (aside from an obscure SIGAR report that only DFH’s will read) for inflating the number to get the result the US desires. For further enticement, recall that NATO has proposed extending the time over which a force size of 352,000 will be supported, in a move that I saw as a blatant attempt to dangle an additional $22 billion ready for embezzling in front of Afghan administrators.

It comes as no small surprise, then, that SIGAR has found that the Afghan-reported numbers somehow manage to include over 11,000 civilians in the reports for security force size that is specifically meant to exclude civilian personnel.

A related area in which SIGAR has found a disgusting level of dishonesty is in how the US goes about evaluating Afghan forces in terms of readiness. Because it became clear to the trainers in 2010 that they had no hope of achieving the trained and independent force size numbers that NATO planners wanted (and because SIGAR found that the tool they were using at the time was useless), they decided that the only way to demonstrate sufficient progress was to redefine the criteria for evaluating progress. From the report:

In 2010, SIGAR audited the previous assessment tool—the Capability Milestone (CM) rating system which had been in use since 2005—and found that it did not provide reliable or consistent assessments of ANSF capabilities. During the course of that audit, DoD and NATO began using a new system, the CUAT [Commander’s Unit Assessment Tool], to rate the ANSF. In May 2010, the ISAF Joint Command (IJC) issued an order to implement the new system which would “provide users the specific rating criteria for each [ANSF] element to be reported by the CUAT including leader/commander considerations, operations conducted, intelligence gathering capability, logistics and sustainment, equipping, partnering, personnel readiness, maintenance, communications, unit training and individual education, as well as the partner unit or advisor team’s overall assessment.”

Since the implementation of the CUAT, the titles of the various rating levels have changed, as shown in Table 3.3. In July 2012, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) raised concerns that the change of the title of the highest rating level from “independent” to “independent with advisors” was, in part, responsible for an increase in the number of ANSF units rated at the highest level. GAO also noted that “the change lowered the standard for unit personnel and equipment levels from ‘not less than 85’ to ‘not less than 75’ percent of authorized levels.” In a response to SIGAR last quarter, the IJC disagreed with GAO’s assessment, saying a change in title does not “equal a change in definition.” Since last quarter, the IJC has initiated a CUAT Refinement Working Group to standardize inputs and outputs in the areas covered by the assessments.

SIGAR noted the evolution of assessment levels and provided this handy table for comparing the various ratings levels that were used:

force readiness

But, when SIGAR drilled down to the definitions used for the current classification levels, we get to the bit that they tweeted yesterday and caught my eye:

Established: The unit is beginning to organize but is barely capable of planning, synchronizing, directing, or reporting operations and status, even with the presence and assistance of a partner unit. The unit is barely able to coordinate and communicate with other units. Leadership and staff may not adhere to a code of conduct or may not be loyal to the Afghan government. Most of the unit’s enablers are not present or are barely effective. Those enablers provide little or no support to the unit. Coalition forces provide most of the support.

Just wow. “Leadership and staff my not adhere to a code of conduct or may not be loyal to the Afghan government.” And how many units are in the category where their loyalty is openly questioned? As of December, 2012, the report indicated only one Afghan National Army unit and three Afghan National Police units at the “established” level where they may not be loyal to the Afghan government. However, there also were 81 ANA and 301 ANP units that were not assessed, so we are left to wonder if many of those units were not assessed primarily because they would fall into this most embarrassing level.

11 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    It sounds like school district attendance reporting: dropouts aren’t counted unless they file appropriate paperwork, or some similar not-going-to-happen event, and other stuff is mis-accounted or ignored, so that attendance looks better than it is and more money goes into the district bank account.

  2. Gimme Shelter says:

    O/T but a topic that has been discussed here on EW previously.

    Egypt catches divers cutting Internet cable amid disruptions

    Undersea cable cut affects 50% of Pakistan’s internet traffic

    Zimbabwe: Internet Slows to a Crawl Because of Undersea Cable Damage

  3. Gimme Shelter says:

    No Harsher CFAA! Support Aaron’s Law Instead

    It’s a slap in the face: The whole Internet is clamoring for reform of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) because it stifles innovation and even imprisons activists and innovators like Aaron Swartz. (And could easily have been used against Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and countless others.)

    So what are some Republicans in the House thinking about doing? Expanding it, and instituting even harsher penalties.

    This is completely unacceptable. Add your name to tell your lawmakers to oppose harsher CFAA penalties.

    The new law would heighten penalties – creating the possibility of up to 30 years in prison for a single broadly-defined offense – make it easy to be considered a conspirator, and entrench law enforcement’s assertions that they should be able to put you in prison for violating terms of serivce agreements!

    Read the proposal and more analysis of it.

    This is an awful affront to all of the work we’ve been doing and to the cries for justice in the wake of Aaron’s suicide. Please help us beat this thing down!

    Demand justice for Aaron: Support “Aaron’s Law” and inquiry into his prosecution

  4. Gimme Shelter says:

    O/T but interesting !!

    Washington Post Agreed To Withhold Acting Clandestine Service Chief’s Name At CIA’s Request

    The Washington Post revealed Wednesday in a front-page story that a woman currently running the clandestine service had signed off on a controversial 2005 decision “to destroy videotapes of prisoners being subjected to treatment critics have called torture.”

    The woman, the first to hold the position in the agency’s history, replaced John Bennett last month on an acting basis. Bennett’s name wasn’t kept secret when he was promoted to chief in July 2010. But the Washington Post didn’t identify the woman, noting that the high-ranking official “remains undercover and cannot be named.”

    “The CIA asked that we not name her because she is still undercover,” Washington Post national security editor Doug Frantz told The Huffington Post.

    CIA director faces a quandary over clandestine service appointment

    As John Brennan moved into the CIA director’s office this month, another high-level transition was taking place down the hall.

    A week earlier, a woman had been placed in charge of the CIA’s clandestine service for the first time in the agency’s history. She is a veteran officer with broad support inside the agency. But she also helped run the CIA’s detention and interrogation program after the September 11, 2001, attacks and signed off on the 2005 decision to destroy videotapes of prisoners being subjected to treatment critics have called torture.

  5. Garrett says:

    This rumor gets mentioned a lot:

    Recruit signs up. Gets a rifle and a couple months pay. Goes home.

    Bigwig gets the remaining paychecks.

    America gets happy numbers on ANSF recruitment, where ANSF recruitment is going to solve all our problems.

    Everyone is happy.

    It wouldn’t be much of a coincidence, then, that the bank selected to handle ANSF pay was pretty much a fraud bottom to top.

  6. P J Evans says:

    The hunger strike is now being reported – incorrectly. They’re claiming it’s about the water being supplied. Makes the prisoners look unreasonable, and misrepresents what’s actually going on.

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