Pentagon Blocks Re­lease Of Key Data on Afghan War

Iran News - - WORLD NEWS -

WASH­ING­TON (Reuters) - The Pentagon has re­stricted the re­lease of crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion on the progress be­ing made in the war in Afghanistan, a move that will limit trans­parency, the U.S. gov­ern­ment’s top watch­dog on Afghanistan said on Mon­day.

For years, the Spe­cial In­spec­tor Gen­eral for Afghanistan Re­con­struc­tion, or SIGAR, has pub­lished a quar­terly re­port that in­cludes un­clas­si­fied data on the amount of ter­ri­tory con­trolled or in­flu­enced by the Tal­iban and the gov­ern­ment.

In a re­port pub­lished late on Mon­day, SIGAR said, how­ever, it was told not to re­lease that in­for­ma­tion. The mil­i­tary also classified, for the first time since 2009, the ac­tual and au­tho­rized to­tal troop num­bers and at­tri­tion rate for the Afghan Na­tional De­fense and Se­cu­rity Forces, or ANDSF.

“The im­pli­ca­tion is that I think the av­er­age Amer­i­can who reads our re­ports or reads your press ac­counts of it, has no mean­ing­ful abil­ity to an­a­lyze how his money or her money is be­ing spent on Afghanistan,” John Sopko, who leads the in­de­pen­dent watch­dog of­fice, told Reuters in an in­ter­view.

The Pentagon sought to de­flect blame for the de­ci­sion, the lat­est move to limit the amount of pub­licly avail­able in­for­ma­tion about the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan - Amer­ica’s long­est.

It said in a state­ment that the Depart­ment of De­fense did not tell SIGAR to with­hold the data, but rather it was the NATO-led Res­o­lute Sup­port coali­tion that made the de­ter­mi­na­tion.

It added that the Pentagon did not have the author­ity to over­rule the clas­si­fi­ca­tion made by Res­o­lute Sup­port, which is led by U.S. Gen­eral John Nicholson.

“The Depart­ment con­tin­ues to work with SIGAR, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, and NATO Res­o­lute Sup­port to re­solve con­cerns about re­stric­tions on in­for­ma­tion that was pre­vi­ously un­clas­si­fied,” Lieu­tenant Colonel Michael An­drews said.

For­mer of­fi­cials and ex­perts said that re­gard­less of who re­stricted the in­for­ma­tion, it was par­tic­u­larly wor­ry­ing be­cause Afghan and U.S. of­fi­cials had pub­licly set a bench­mark it would now be dif­fi­cult to mea­sure.

The top U.S. gen­eral in Afghanistan set a goal in Novem­ber of driv­ing back Tal­iban in­sur­gents enough to con­trol at least 80 per­cent of the coun­try within two years.

In its most re­cent re­port, SIGAR said that 43 per­cent of Afghanistan’s dis­tricts were either un­der Tal­iban con­trol or be­ing con­tested.

Sopko said peo­ple would to jump to the con­clu­sion that in­for­ma­tion was be­ing with­held be­cause progress was not be­ing made, which may not be the case. A sim­i­lar ac­cu­sa­tion was made dur­ing the Viet­nam War, which later proved true. “In essence, you can ask me al­most any ques­tion and I will have to say, it is classified or non-re­leasable, I mean you go down the list, it is just amaz­ing,” Sopko said.

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