GAO: Defense Dept. Lowered Standards for Afghan Forces to Justify Withdrawal

GAO: Defense Dept. Lowered Standards for Afghan Forces to Justify Withdrawal

During Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, Barack Obama boasted that he and NATO are planning to leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014 and leave the security of the country to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

There’s one problem: the ANSF isn’t ready.

The ANSF was supposed to meet determined standards of effectiveness before the U.S. would withdraw its forces, but now the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is admitting that those standards were lowered so that coalition forces could get out.

The desired ranking for the ANSF was previously “independent,” which meant they could function alone. Those rankings were lowered in August 2011 to “independent with advisors,” which meant the ANSF needed the coalition’s help. Despite the fact that the standards were lowered in November, three months later only 14 percent of ANSF units and 13 percent of police units were able to meet the new standards.

The GAO said in its report that the the Department of Defense “acknowledged that the changes to the rating levels, as well as the elimination of certain requirements for validating units, were partly responsible for the increase in ANSF units rated at the highest level.”

Ahmad Majidyar, an Afghanistan expert at the American Enterprise Institute, said:

The success of ANSF taking a leading role greatly hinges upon the support it receives from coalition partners in terms of intelligences, decision-making, reconnaissance, rout-clearing equipment, medical evacuation and more. ANSF’s operational capacity will decline drastically if it doesn’t receive such enabling assistance.