Since 2005, the Department of Defense has used what is known as a “pseudo-foreign military sales program” to equip the Afghan forces, but that system “lacked the financial resources and the institutional capability to define their own requirements,” according to John Sopko.
“While the pseudo FMS process allowed the United States to rapidly equip the Afghan security forces, we found that the United States was unprepared to take on the responsibility of equipping a force at the scale required in Afghanistan,” Sopko said during a talk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Monday.
The Pentagon has spent $18 billion in taxpayer money on weapons for Afghan forces, providing 600,000 weapons, 70,000 vehicles, and more than 200 aircraft. Despite the large price tag, the program’s mismanagement has had a negative effect on the battlefield.
One problem Sopko pointed out was a gap in standardization. The U.S. supplied the Afghan National Army with NATO-standard weapons beginning in 2008, but only started doing the same for the Afghan National Police in 2016.
“As a result, during a Taliban attack on Ghazni province last year, the Afghan Army was unable to supply their besieged police colleagues because their ammunition was not compatible,” Sopko said.
Input from Afghan leadership on the equipment issue has also been lacking. A former commander told SIGAR officials that “the Afghans were informed and directed, not asked or consulted” and that “Afghan leaders made reasonable requests and were told ‘it’s not part of the plan.'”
One example of this problem in action is the Afghan Ministry of Defense’s request for additional armored ambulances. Currently, the Afghan forces have just 38 armored ambulances for a force of 352,000 personnel. Congress has put forward legislation supporting the transfer of spare U.S. ambulances, yet the Army sent 287 surplus ambulances to be destroyed in 2017.
In addition to their equipment woes, the Afghan security forces continue to suffer from rampant corruption and retention problems. They have also struggled to control much of their country. According to an estimate eby the Long War Journal, the government controls 140 of the country’s districts, the Taliban controls 65, and the remaining 192 are considered contested.
Despite these problems, Afghan forces may soon have to shoulder more responsibility for their country’s security, as President Trump reportedly rwants to lower troops levels in Afghanistan ahead of the 2020 election.