WASHINGTON — Despite an investment of $11.7 billion for facilities for Afghan police and soldiers, the Afghan government will likely be unable to sustain the necessary operations and maintenance of those buildings after coalition troops withdraw at the end of 2014, according to a report released this week by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
The report cites a lack of skilled workers, budgeting and procurement problems, and even harassment and assault of maintenance workers by Afghan national security forces, which undermine plans to build and sustain facilities throughout Afghanistan, particularly those for police.
The contractor providing operation and maintenance work at ANSF facilities, ITT Exelis Systems Corp., was generally doing its job, the report found, but would run out of money to service facilities in part of the country by March 2014 — 16 months before the contract ends.
The Afghan Ministry of Defense “has taken some steps to develop the necessary capacity; however, (the Ministry of the Interior) has not recruited the necessary personnel and implemented the systems required to develop a self-sustaining police force,” the report said. “Instead, the ministry continues to rely on U.S. coalition funding and support, decreasing the likelihood that the ministry will be able to sustain (Afghan National Police) facilities in the long run.”
Still, Pentagon spokesman George Little said Thursday that the Defense Department’s commitment to the 2014 transition “remains sound.”
“I think we’ve been very clear-eyed in our public statements about the fact that, while we’re making progress, challenges remain,” Little said. “I think reports such as this are helpful in identifying some of the issues we continue to confront, and we certainly take their concerns on board.”
Afghanistan’s inability to sustain facilities for its security forces are part of a sobering pattern, said Anthony Cordesman, international security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“The SIGAR report provides yet another indication that the ANSF will be at least two years away from being able to handle security on its own at the end of 2014, that we may leave Afghanistan without the aid funds to avoid an economic crisis to depart, that insurgent influence is still growing in many areas, and Afghan politics and governance are almost as much of a threat to mission success as the enemy,” he said.
Ahmad K. Majidyar, a senior researcher for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank, said without continued international troop presence and robust international funding after 2014, Afghanistan can’t sustain the ANSF.
“We have to continue to support the Afghans with logistics and airpower,” Majidyar said. “These are two problems where the ANSF cannot become self-sufficient by the end of 2014, or for many years after that.”
He cites frequent reports of logistical breakdowns in regions of the country where Afghan forces have recently taken over security responsibility.
“In the places where the coalition forces have reduced their presence significantly, (Afghans are) already complaining about their ability to sustain themselves… even with small things like electricity and food,” Majidyar said. “Of course this will get worse after coalition forces leave the country.”
The NATO coalition faces what Cordesman called two “real-world” choices. The first is to cut losses and leave, hoping the Taliban fails to take control of the country in the ensuing power struggle. The other is to spend $100 billion on continued training and aid in the years after 2014 in hopes of establishing what he described as “Afghan barely acceptable.”