Afghanistan will use biometrics to verify the existence of every member of the Afghan National Defense and Security Force (ANDSF), vowed the country’s president.
The Afghan leader’s pledge comes nearly two months after the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reported that Washington and Kabul have no idea how many ANDSF members “actually exist,” which members are available for duty, and whether they are truly capable of defending their own country.
SIGAR is a congressionally appointed U.S. watchdog agency.
The ANDSF, which includes army and police units, is primarily funded by U.S. taxpayers to the tune of billions of dollars every year.
During a joint press conference on Tuesday with U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was asked what he will do to guarantee that international funding provided to Afghanistan will not go to waste.
“Every soldier and every police officer — every police man and woman will be verified… based on the biometrics,” he responded. “We will be sure that yes, they exist… [and that] they can serve at the highest level of the Afghanistan national defense security forces.”
Ghani promised that Afghanistan will also ensure that there is a system in place that admits competent ANDSF recruits.
On Saturday, the U.S. and NATO committed to a “long haul” plan to provide financial support to the struggling ANDSF, with U.S. taxpayers continuing to pick up most of the tab.
The Afghan security forces are projected to receive up to $5 billion a year in funding through 2020, including about $3.5 billion from the United States, an estimated $1 billion from the international community, and nearly $420 million from Afghanistan.
Military.com reports that the funding “agreements announced at the NATO summit in Warsaw essentially met the requests of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who came to the conference with a long wish list and met with President Barack Obama.”
“These funding commitments will allow the ANDSF to maintain its authorized force level of 352,000 personnel (including Afghan military, national police and local police) through 2020,” notes the White House.
Nevertheless, SIGAR argues that neither the United States nor Afghanistan know the actual size of the ANDSF.
At the end of April, the watchdog agency reported:
For years, the authorized strength of the ANDSF has been 352,000 soldiers and police. The ANDSF’s reported actual strength has at times approached that goal, but never reached it. More troubling is SIGAR’s assessment that neither the United States nor its Afghan allies know how many Afghan soldiers and police actually exist, how many are in fact available for duty, or, by extension, the true nature of their operational capabilities.
A year earlier, SIGAR warned that inaccurate and unreliable data on Afghan security personnel may place U.S. security and billions of American taxpayer funds at risk.
Since the beginning of the Afghanistan war in October 2001, the U.S. has devoted “more than $68 billion to recruit, train, equip, house, feed, supply, and pay the salaries” of the ANDSF and local police, according to the watchdog agency.
Meanwhile, NATO points out that “the total cumulative contributions to the NATO-run Afghanistan National Army Trust Fund to date amount to over 1.5 billion USD.”
The United Nations Development Program’s Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA), which is used to pay the Afghanistan National Police, has provided $1.5 billion since the beginning of the war.