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U.S. Spends $17 Billion to Arm Struggling Afghan Armed Forces as Taliban Surges

Afghan force shrinks despite billions in military aid from U.S.

Afghanistan: Afghan National Army in Badakhshan
Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers / AP
• August 2, 2016 5:00 am

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The United States has spent more than $17 billion to provide weapons, ammunition, and other military equipment to Afghanistan’s struggling defense forces, even as the number of Afghans enlisted in these services dips amid a resurgence in Taliban-backed violence, according to new figures published by a government oversight body.

The United States has spent nearly $13 billion to arm the Afghan National Army as of May 31, 2016 and another $4.2 billion on weapons for the Afghan National Police, according to figures from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

The latest tally of U.S. expenditures for these forces comes amid a new surge of violence in Afghanistan caused by the Taliban, which President Obama said had been "toppled" on Monday.

As the United States continues to send great amounts of taxpayer aid to the war-torn country, the strength of its security forces have reached new lows, casting doubt on the ability of American and allied forces to completely hand off security control of the country.

The combined strength of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces stood at 319,595 as of April 2016. This is a significant decline from February 2014 when the force strength was 338,108, according to figures published by SIGAR.

In total, as of June 30, 2016, "the United States had obligated $40.1 billion and disbursed $39.0 billion of [security] funds to build, train, equip, and sustain the" Afghan National Army, according to the report.

Yet the number of Afghans serving continues to decrease, the report found.

As of May 20, 2016, the Afghan army’s force strength totaled 171,428—an overall decrease of 8,083 personnel from January of this year.

The force lacks basic supplies, such as footwear, despite vast funding from the United States.

"Afghan security forces have had a shortage of adequate footwear," according to the report. "Moreover, 23% of the boots ordered for the ANA and 29% of the boots ordered for the ANP during 2014 and 2015 were not delivered until early 2016."

The boot shortage resulted from "the Afghan decision to buy short-lasting, poor-quality boots from local or Chinese sources" as well as "a system that tracked quantities of boots procured but not their sizes, which led to a surplus of boots too large for most Afghans," according to SIGAR.

Billions spent on weapons and equipment also have seen diminishing returns, according to SIGAR.

While "there are over 54,000 vehicles in the ANA inventory," U.S. Defense Department "estimates of the number of operational vehicles are far lower."

The Afghan National Police force also has shrunk. The total force number was 148,167 as of April 2016, marking "an increase of 1,863 ANP personnel since last quarter, but 7,015 below the May 2015 assigned end strength that was reported at 155,182.364," according to the report.

"Since last quarter, the total cost of equipment procured for the ANP increased by over $94.4 million, primarily within the vehicle category, but also for weapons, transportation services, and counter-improvised-explosive devices," the report said.

The Defense Department "reported there is a continued requirement to replace battle losses and equipment that is not economical to repair," according to SIGAR.

Published under: Afghanistan