New efforts to stamp out corruption among Afghan government officials and extricate the U.S. military from Afghanistan are going, well, terribly, according to a new report to Congress from the Special Inspector General Report for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
Afghan officials are behind. As of a February 2018 draft report, Afghan officials had only met 10% (or 2 of 20) of their major benchmarks for that year. However, 10 weeks later, that figure had jumped to 70%; SIGAR praised government officials for their "responsiveness to the draft report" in the final version released at the end of May.
That's a suspect turnaround. Well, of the 66 major anti-corruption goals released in October 2017, a whopping 58% "lacked corresponding benchmarks to evaluate implementation progress" — which means that the DoD and Afghan officials don't even have the right means to measure success or failure. In addition, another 37% of benchmarks "are without corresponding goals, making it unclear how the completion of these benchmarks will advance the government's anti-corruption goals."
What's the problem? There are five problems, and they're all bureaucratic garbage! The SIGAR report cited a lack of capacity and resources for key anti-corruption institutions; "differing opinions" among Afghan officials on jurisdiction between government agencies; and a lack of aggressive prosecution. The biggest problem, however: "Unqualified and potentially corrupt actors continue to operate in key Afghan anti-corruption institutions." No shit!
Things don't look good in the long run: "It is unlikely that lasting change will be realized until the Afghan government commits to fighting corruption without reservations," SIGAR wrote in a statement accompanying the full report. "If the Afghan government continues not to take action against public officials who violate internal codes of ethics, while simultaneously failing to protect reformers and whistleblowers from reprisal, a climate of corruption will endure."
According to the global corruption index maintained by Transparency International, Afghanistan ranks 177 out of 180 in terms of public perceptions of corruption — just above war-torn Syria, war-torn South Sudan, and war-torn Somalia. Something tells me another trillion bucks over another 17 years probably won't help fix that problem.
Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces control the monitor of their drone at their advanced position, during the fighting with Islamic State's fighters in Nazlat Shahada, a district of Raqqa. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)
MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.
Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."
"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."
First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.
"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."