Government watchdog blasts State and Defense departments for withholding key information about Afghanistan


Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko mentioned, “The full picture of what happened in August — and all the warning signs that could have predicted that outcome — will only be revealed if the information that the Departments of State and Defense have already restricted from public release is made available.”

Speaking on the Military Reporters & Editors Association Annual Conference in Arlington, Virginia, on Friday, Sopko referred to as on the 2 departments to launch all of the related info.

Sopko has been a constant and harsh critic of the best way the Afghan battle was carried out however his feedback on Friday are more likely to be scrutinized as lawmakers examine the errors made within the conduct of the almost 20-year battle and its chaotic finish.

He mentioned the restriction of data by the Defense Department, which he mentioned dated again to 2015 would have helped Congress and the general public assess “whether we should have ended our efforts” in Afghanistan.

The Defense Department restricted the general public launch of details about “the performance of the Afghan security forces,” which included “casualty data, unit strength, training and operation deficiencies, tactical and operational readiness of Afghan military leadership, comprehensive assessments of Afghan security force leadership and operational readiness rates,” Sopko mentioned.

In brief, he mentioned, it was “nearly all the information you needed to determine whether the Afghan security forces were a real fighting force or a house of cards waiting to fall.”

The Pentagon had repeatedly touted the dimensions and energy of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces as superior to the vastly outnumbered Taliban. In the tip, the Afghan navy collapsed in a span of lower than two weeks because the Taliban swept throughout the nation this summer season, culminating within the fall of Kabul on August 15 with barely a shot fired.

Sopko additionally ridiculed the State Department’s request to “temporarily suspend access” to all “audit, inspection and financial audit… reports,” on SIGAR’s web site shortly after Kabul fell to the Taliban in August. The State Department claimed info in these studies “could put Afghan allies at risk.”

Sopko mentioned State Department requests didn’t make sense

The requests, Sopko mentioned, didn’t make any sense, like asking to redact the identify of former Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, a determine already well-known internationally.

“I’m sure [former] President Ghani may wish to be excised from the annals of history, but I don’t believe he faces any additional threats, nor is there any threat to any other Afghans, by mentioning his name in our reports,” Sopko quipped.

State additionally requested SIGAR to think about redacting the identify of a USAID official, Sopko mentioned, although he testified publicly earlier than Congress in 2017 and video of the testimony remains to be out there.

State then requested SIGAR redact 2,400 new gadgets the division recognized on SIGAR’s web site. Sopko reviewed the requested redactions and located all “but four to be without merit,” he mentioned.

In late-August, CNN requested studies from SIGAR and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that had been not out there on the web site. At the time each workplaces mentioned that they had eliminated the studies “out of an abundance of caution” on the request of the State Department.

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Sopko mentioned the request from the State Department together with the Defense Department’s longstanding restriction on key details about the mission in Afghanistan forestall lawmakers, the press and the general public from understanding the true state of affairs within the nation and what led to its collapse to the Taliban in such a brief period of time.

Sopko argued State and Defense “should declassify and make available to SIGAR and Congress all internal DOD and State Department cables, reports and other material reflecting the security situation on the ground over the last few years — especially those reports that differed from the public statements of the agencies in Washington.”

In order to completely perceive what occurred in Afghanistan and be taught from 20 years of US navy involvement within the nation, extra info is required, Sopko mentioned, arguing for higher transparency from the US authorities.

“To answer these questions, we must find out what our government knew, when it knew it, and what it did, if anything, with that information,” he mentioned.

CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.

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