Sigar Report Claims US Withholding Critical Information - The Daily Outlook Afghanistan

Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, August 17th, 2018

Sigar Report Claims US Withholding Critical Information

Sigar Report Claims US Withholding Critical Information

KABUL - The special inspector general said this was extremely worrying especially as it comes amid an increase in insurgent influence in the country.
A new report released on Monday states the US military is keeping information from the public that gauges the war in Afghanistan and gains made by insurgents.
The US Defense Department has restricted data on population figures and on what areas are held by either government or insurgents, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in a report released on Tuesday.
“The number of districts controlled or influenced by the Afghan government had been one of the last remaining publicly available indicators for members of Congress ... and for the American public of how the 16-year-long US effort to secure Afghanistan is faring,” John Sopko, the special inspector general, said in the report.
This however is the first time that SIGAR has been instructed not to release unclassified information in one of its quarterly reports, Sopko said, adding that the information will instead be included in an annex unavailable to the public.
The report stated that SIGAR was not given any justification for the new restrictions.
The SIGAR report stated that the “worrisome development” follows an increase of insurgent control or influence in Afghanistan.
As such, the non-disclosure of information was of particular concern, SIGAR reported.
It also comes after several other measures for gauging the development and strength of Afghanistan’s security forces were blocked or restricted in the fall. Among them were casualty and attrition rates.
Sopko said in the report “this quarter, the Department of Defense (DOD) instructed SIGAR not to release to the public data on the number of districts, and the population living in them, controlled or influenced by the Afghan government or by the insurgents, or contested by both.
“SIGAR was informed this quarter that DOD has determined that although the most recent numbers are unclassified, they are not releasable to the public.
“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,” Sopko said.
He said: “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.
“This worrisome development comes as DOD this quarter, for the first time since 2009, also classified the exact strength figures for most Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), another vital measure of ANDSF reconstruction,” he said.
“Meanwhile, for the second consecutive quarter, DOD also classified or otherwise restricted information SIGAR had previously reported including such fundamental metrics of ANDSF performance as casualties, attrition, and most capability assessments,” Sopko added.
In addition, Sopko stated that due to heightened interest from both US and Afghan officials in Afghanistan’s mining sector, the report contains an essay examining the prospects for mining to help the country become self-reliant.
“Despite Afghanistan’s large and well-documented resources, mining revenues in 2016 supplied only 0.3 percent of the country’s $6.5 billion USD national budget. Among other obstacles, plans to develop the country’s mineral resources have been stymied by insecurity, corruption, weak governance, and a lack of infrastructure,” he said.  (Tolonews)