Watchdog: Afghans 'incapable' of maintaining military bases after US pullout

Afghan troops will simply be "incapable" of building and maintaining enough military installations to defend against the Taliban or other outside threats, according to a new report by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).


In the report released Wednesday, U.S. officials cite numerous shortfalls in the Afghan-led effort, from the lack of qualified personnel to support the bases to not having enough equipment and supplies to do the job. 

The network of military bases and outposts across Afghanistan will be the hubs for security, stability and counterrrorism operations run by the ANSF.

These Afghan bases will also house U.S. and NATO military advisers and special operations forces who will be left in Afghanistan once the main American and coalition fighting force leaves the country. 

To that end, inspectors examined a slew of U.S.-financed military construction programs across Afghanistan included under an $800 million contract issued in 2010. 

Under that deal, the U.S. Corps of Engineers granted $450 million to build and refurbish 262 Afghan army and police installations in northern Afghanistan, according to the report. 

Another $350 million was awarded to construct an additional 218 bases for the ANSF in the southern part of the country, U.S. inspectors said. 

In spite of that investment, American officials found "difficulties recruiting a sufficient number and quality of personnel, as well as deficient [Ministry of Defense] and [Ministry of Interior] budgeting, procurement, and supply systems prevent the Afghan government from fully maintaining ANSF facilities." 

"This hampers efforts to transition [Afghan National Army] and [Afghan National Police] facilities to the Afghan government," according to the report. 

In addition, government officials in Kabul have filled less than half of the "operations and maintenance" jobs needed to keep the base construction program on track, according to the report. 

As of June, Afghan defense and interior ministries had only 41 percent of the needed personnel to ensure military and police bases would be up and running once American forces depart. 

Aside from the lack of personnel to support the bases, many of the Afghans who are responsible for keeping the bases battle ready are unqualified to do the job, SIGAR officials say. 

"The complexity of these critical facilities requires skilled, experienced personnel who can operate and maintain them independently, which most Afghan personnel are currently unable to do," the report states. 

Low literacy rates within the Afghan population, coupled with a dearth of the needed technical and engineering expertise within the available workforce, has only shrunken the already limited employment pool available to ANSF planners. 

With Kabul currently unable to overcome these logistic hurdles, NATO commanders expect Afghan forces will run out of funding for the bases in northern Afghanistan by the 2014 withdrawal deadline, likely leaving many ANSF bases partially complete or abandoned, the report states. 

U.S. inspectors noted that Afghan defense leaders have "taken some steps to develop the necessary capacity" but those efforts have been dampened by the inability of the interior ministry to keep place.

"Instead, the ministry continues to rely on U.S. and coalition funding and support, decreasing the likelihood that the ministry will be able to sustain [police] facilities in the long run," the inspectors wrote. 

Should these trends continue, such obstacles "will likely prohibit [Afghanistan] from being capable of fully sustaining ANSF facilities after the transition in 2014 and the expected significant decrease in U.S. and coalition support," the report states. 

American and coalition forces have already struggled on the training side to get Afghan forces ready for the eventual withdrawal. 

A recent spate of so-called "insider" attacks by ANSF soldiers against U.S. and NATO troops have resulted in the deaths of 53 coalition members this year.

Gen. John Allen, outgoing commander of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan, was forced to suspend all coalition-led training missions for Afghan army and police units in September due to the attacks. 

— This story was updated at 4:48 p.m.