Washington Post’s Afghanistan Papers: Part Five


Submitted to VT by the Washington Post

For almost two decades, U.S. military commanders have assured the public they are making progress on the cornerstone of their war strategy: to build a strong Afghan army and police force that can defend the country on their own. But in a trove of confidential government interviews obtained by The Washington Post, U.S., NATO and Afghan officials described the Afghan security forces as incompetent, unmotivated, poorly trained, corrupt and riddled with deserters and infiltrators.

 Read more: https://wapo.st/38ICZKG


  • Ryan Crocker, a former U.S. ambassador to Kabul, told government interviewers that the Afghan police were ineffective “not because they’re out-gunned or out-manned. It’s because they are useless as a security force and they’re useless as a security force because they are corrupt down to the patrol level.”
  • Victor Glaviano, who worked with the Afghan army as a U.S. combat adviser from 2007 to 2008, called the soldiers “stealing fools” who habitually looted equipment supplied by the Pentagon.
  • One U.S. Special Forces trainer told government interviewers that the Afghans mistook urinals in the barracks as drinking fountains.
  • Another U.S. trainer said he had to teach conscripts basic human anatomy: “They didn’t understand how a tourniquet could help stop bleeding if you’re not even putting it over the wound.”
  • Petty corruption was rampant. In a 2015 Lessons Learned interview, an unnamed U.N. official described how Afghan police recruits would undergo two weeks of training, “get their uniforms, then go back to the province and sell them.” Unworried that they might get in trouble, he said, many would reenlist and “come back to do it again.”
  • “The less they behaved, the more money we threw at them,” a former U.S. official told government interviewers in 2015. “There was no real incentive to reform.”
  • One U.S. military adviser assigned to the Afghan air force told government interviewers that “Afghans would come to them with ‘pilot wings’ that they found or purchased, claiming to be pilots but having no flight experience.”
  • One unnamed U.S. military official told government interviewers in 2016 that about a third of the local police “seemed to be drug addicts or Taliban.”
  • Since 2002, the United States has allocated more than $83 billion in security assistance to Afghanistan, a sum that dwarfs the defense budgets of other developing nations. Yet after almost two decades of help from Washington, the Afghan army and police are still too weak to fend off the Taliban, the Islamic State and other insurgents without U.S. military backup.
  • Zalmay Khalilzad said the Afghan government wanted Washington to pay for security forces of 100,000 to 120,000. But he said in a Lessons Learned interview that Donald Rumsfeld drew a hard line and held the training program “hostage” until the Afghans agreed to the 50,000 cap, which led to long delays…“So we were fighting in 2002, 2003 about those sort of numbers,” Khalilzad told government interviewers, saying it was apparent more Afghan forces were required. “Now we’re talking about God knows what, 300,000 or whatever.”


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