The Pentagon has instructed the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) to withhold data comparing the number of the country’s districts controlled by its government and by insurgents.
As such, SIGAR followed the Pentagon guideline and did not include such data in its Jan. 30 quarterly report to Congress.
“This development is troubling for a number of reasons, not least of which is that this is the first time SIGAR has been specifically instructed not to release information marked ‘unclassified’ to the American taxpayer,” John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said in the report’s executive summary.
Congress has asked SIGAR to produce the reports in order to gain some idea about the progress of the U.S. mission to stabilize the country and rid it of insurgents. The newest report is the 38th of its kind. Sopko wrote that the number of districts under insurgent control is one of the primary indicators of the mission’s effectiveness, adding that the trend does not do much to foster optimism.
“Historically, the number of districts controlled or influenced by the government has been falling since SIGAR began reporting on it, while the number controlled or influenced by the insurgents has been rising – a fact that should cause even more concern about its disappearance from public disclosure and discussion,” Sopko wrote.
The Pentagon also chose to classify strength, casualty and retention figures for the Afghan army and security forces. Sopko said SIGAR would issue this information in a separate classified report to Capitol Hill.
The report did include figures indicating that efforts to bolster the Afghan economy through mining natural resources have been less than effective. Mining produced only 0.3 percent of Afghanistan’s $6.5 billion national budget, largely because of “insecurity, corruption, weak governance, and a lack of infrastructure,” Sopko wrote.
The report also mentioned a SIGAR document issued last June that addressed the lack of success the U.S. has had in getting Afghan officials to address concerns about child sexual abuse committed by members of the country’s police and military forces.