Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Almost every US metric for the war in Afghanistan 'is now classified or nonexistent,' so obviously things are going swimmingly
So, how goes the never-ending war in Afghanistan? According to the United States's top government oversight authority on it, well, we don't know and can't say.
"Almost every indicia, metric for success or failure is now classified or nonexistent," John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), told Wednesday. "Over time, it's been classified or it's no longer being collected ... The classification in some areas is needless."
To be clear, Sopko isn't just saying that the Pentagon has opted to keep more information on its progress in Afghanistan classified — he's saying that the Pentagon has outright ceased gathering critical data on whether the United States is actually succeeding or failing after sinking 17 years, 2,400 fallen service members, and $900 billion dollars into a seemingly endless conflict.
To be clear, there are lots of things we know about the progress of the geopolitical albatross known as the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan — and they're all fucking dismal. Here's a depressingly non-comprehensive list:
- A June 2018 SIGAR report indicated that the $8.62 billion allocated to fighting the Taliban's highly--profitable narcotics operation was a miserable failure. Indeed, Sopko revealed on Wednesday that the much-hyped year-long bombing of Taliban drug labs under the codename Operation Iron Tempest "didn't have the intended effect of hitting the Taliban's purse and was probably a waste of resources," as Military Times put it.
- A October 2018 SIGAR report found that the central government in Kabul only controls or has influence over 55% of Afghanistan's discrete districts, down from 71% of the country in November 2015 and the lowest point of control since SIGAR even started using districts as a strategic metric.
- A September 2017 SIGAR report indicated that the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces were nowhere near their 352,000 target personnel level; a subsequent March 2019 assessment found that ANDSF personnel seemed more interested in robbing and terrorizing their fellow Afghans and stealing guns and ammo from the U.S.-led coalition there.
- A September 2018 SIGAR report concluded that United States reconstruction efforts themselves were deeply flawed mostly because the U.S. government "greatly overestimated its ability to build and reform government institutions in Afghanistan as part of its stabilization strategy,." Indeed, Sopko wrote at the time, U.S. programs for rebuilding Afghan civil society "were not properly tailored to the Afghan context, and successes in stabilizing Afghan districts rarely lasted longer than the physical presence of coalition troops and civilians."
However, it's worth noting that the separate issue of increasing over-classification of assessments of Afghan war effort has become well-worn territory for SIGAR. In 2017, Sopko explicitly noted that new restrictions on once-public information on the state of Afghan security forces — including "casualties, personnel strength, attrition, capability assessments, and operational readiness of equipment" — only ends up hurting the watchdog's ability to keep Americans informed of how their tax dollars are spent.
"More than 60% of the approximately $121 billion in U.S. funding for reconstruction in Afghanistan since 2002 has gone to build up the ANDSF," Sopko said at the time in SIGAR's October 2017 quarterly report to Congress. "The increased classification of ANDSF data will hinder SIGAR's ability to publicly report on progress or failure in a key reconstruction sector."
Part of the responsibility, Sopko said, lies with the Afghan government: Long mired by issues of corruption and ongoing spats over political legitimacy, the central government in Kabul in recent years has demanded that certain data on the state of Afghan security forces shared with the Pentagon not be made public.
"I don't think it makes sense," Sopko said on Wednesday, per Defense One. "The Afghan people know which districts are controlled by the Taliban. The Taliban obviously know which districts they control. Our military knows it. Everybody in Afghanistan knows it. The only people who don't know what's going on is the people who are paying for all of this and that's the American taxpayer."
But this allergic reaction to transparency doesn't just belong to Kabul. In January, President Donald Trump complained during a televised cabinet meeting that the public nature of Afghanistan progress reports were probably undermining U.S. reconstruction there.
"What kind of stuff is this?" he told Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan on the latter's first full day on the job. "The enemy reads those reports; they study every line of it…. I don't want it to happen anymore, Mr. Secretary. You understand that."
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Sopko stopped just short of calling bullshit on the commander-in-chief.
"I know this became a big deal at a press conference at the White House about why is this information being discussed publicly," Sopko said. "Well, by law we have to."
SEE ALSO: US Relied On Microsoft Excel To Track Gross Human Rights Violations In Afghanistan Until 2017
WATCH NEXT: Operation Enduring Freedom Turns 17
The top leaders of a Japan-based Marine Corps F/A-18D Hornet squadron were fired after an investigation into a deadly mid-air collision last December found that poor training and an "unprofessional command climate" contributed to the crash that left six Marines dead, officials announced on Monday.
Five Marines aboard a KC-130J Super Hercules and one Marine onboard an F/A-18D Hornet were killed in the Dec. 6, 2018 collision that took place about 200 miles off the Japanese coast. Another Marine aviator who was in the Hornet survived.
The Department of Veterans Affairs released an alarming report Friday showing that at least 60,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017, with little sign that the crisis is abating despite suicide prevention being the VA's top priority.
Although the total population of veterans declined by 18% during that span of years, more than 6,000 veterans died by suicide annually, according to the VA's 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he discussed Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son in a call with Ukraine's president.
Trump's statement to reporters about his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky came as the Democratic leader of a key congressional panel said the pursuit of Trump's impeachment may be the "only remedy" to the situation.
The USS Eagle 56 was only five miles off the coast of Maine when it exploded.
The World War I-era patrol boat split in half, then slipped beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. The Eagle 56 had been carrying a crew of 62. Rescuers pulled 13 survivors from the water that day. It was April 23, 1945, just two weeks before the surrender of Nazi Germany.
The U.S. Navy classified the disaster as an accident, attributing the sinking to a blast in the boiler room. In 2001, that ruling was changed to reflect the sinking as a deliberate act of war, perpetuated by German submarine U-853, a u-boat belonging to Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine.
Still, despite the Navy's effort to clarify the circumstances surrounding the sinking, the Eagle 56 lingered as a mystery. The ship had sunk relatively close to shore, but efforts to locate the wreck were futile for decades. No one could find the Eagle 56, a small patrol ship that had come so close to making it back home.
Then, a group of friends and amateur divers decided to try to find the wreck in 2014. After years of fruitless dives and intensive research, New England-based Nomad Exploration Team successfully located the Eagle 56 in June 2018.
Business Insider spoke to two crew members — meat truck driver Jeff Goodreau and Massachusetts Department of Corrections officer Donald Ferrara — about their discovery.