Audit: Pentagon Not Tracking Human Rights Training Funds for Foreign Forces by Country

Afghan security forces stand guard near the site of a suicide attack in Jalalabad on November 23, 2017. A suicide bomber struck at a crowd of people in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar on November 23 killing at least eight, officials said, in an attack that underscored worsening security. …
NOORULLAH SHIRZADA/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. government has failed to assess the effectiveness of its multi-million dollar program to train American taxpayer-funded foreign forces to respect human rights, an audit found this week.

According to the audit, it is also unclear exactly how much money the U.S. federal government is spending on human rights training for foreign troops. Moreover, the U.S. government is “unaware of the full scope” of its human rights training programs because it fails to track them, auditors reported.

On Monday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), known as the investigative arm of Congress, noted:

The U.S. government seeks to advance human rights when it provides security assistance to foreign countries. Such assistance includes DOD [Department of Defense] – and [Department of] State – supported human rights and international humanitarian law training for foreign security forces.

DOD and State have not assessed the effectiveness of human rights training for foreign security forces, according to agency officials. … [U.S. law] required DOD to conduct monitoring and evaluation of its security assistance programs.

DOD has taken initial steps to develop monitoring and evaluation policies but officials stated that they have not yet determined when DOD will evaluate human rights training. State officials said they do not know when the agency will begin monitoring and evaluating human rights training.

Without monitoring and evaluation, the U.S. government is unable to determine the effectiveness of its human rights training for foreign security forces, the GAO said.

The U.S. government was unable to produce a country by country breakdown of the money it is spending on human rights training.

“DOD tracks and reports funding for mandated human rights training at a global level, but not by country and program, although DOD is taking steps to do so,” the GAO acknowledged.

GAO auditors were unable to determine precisely how much money the American federal government is devoting to training foreign forces to promote human rights.

The Department of State relies on the Pentagon to track human rights training funding. However, the GAO revealed, “DOD could not provide the information we requested on funds obligated and disbursed for mandated human rights training, by program and country, for fiscal years 2015 through 2018.”

The U.S. government devoted nearly $150 million to just one training program from 2015 through 2018.

Auditors learned from experts and U.S. officials that there are challenges to achieving its human rights training goals through training alone.

GAO investigators found that “such challenges include tailoring training to the partner nation, integrating it into operational training, and a lack of capabilities and accountability systems on the part of partner nations.”

U.S. law prohibits the American government from providing funds to security forces who commit gross human rights violations.

The United Nations recently found, however, that Afghan security forces continue to receive American taxpayer money despite engaging in human rights violations against children.

Former President Barack Obama’s administration “issued policy guidance authorizing” the U.S. to waive the ban on funding for human rights violators, a watchdog agency reported in 2018.

It appears that policy remains in effect.

Male members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) continue to participate in the centuries-old custom of raping boys, known as bacha bazi, the U.N. reported at the end of last month.

In December 2018, the Pentagon reported that it is working to “ensure that the ANDSF respects” human rights.

“[Pentagon] efforts focus on assisting the ANDSF to prevent and, when necessary, respond properly to significant acts of corruption and allegations of gross violations of human rights (GVHR), such as extra-judicial killings and child sex abuse,” it added.

The GAO report pointed out:

Promoting respect for human rights is a goal of U.S. foreign policy. The United States considers the advancement of human rights when providing security assistance to foreign countries. Providing training on human rights issues and international humanitarian law to foreign security forces can further U.S. credibility and interests.

The GAO recommended that the Pentagon “establish processes to ensure that information on…human rights training is systematically and accurately entered into its tracking systems.”

It also urged the Pentagon “to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of human rights training for foreign security forces.”

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