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U.S. Classifies Some Basic Statistics About Afghan Security Forces

The American command in Afghanistan has for the first time in six years classified detailed statistics about the Afghan security forces — everything from equipment and training to attrition.

Gen. John Campbell, who is leading the NATO coalition's non-combat mission in Afghanistan, said he now considers all that sensitive operational information that could help the Taliban.

Campbell said he decided to classify details about the Afghan forces because they could be used by insurgent fighters to threaten both Afghan and U.S. forces.

Campbell revealed his concerns in a letter to John Sopko, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, who just completed his latest quarterly report.

Sopko said he was concerned the classification would harm his efforts to publicly account for the billions of dollars spent each year on Afghan forces.

Officials have been especially concerned about the Afghan forces. Last year, 4,600 of them were killed, a 6 percent increase over 2013.

As the report puts it: "In December, the outgoing [no. 2] commander Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, addressed the challenge of sustaining Afghan troops with soaring casualty rates and desertions. He said nearly 20 percent of Afghan National Army positions were unfilled as of October and recruiting and retention were not making up for personnel losses."

In a press release, SIGAR notes that more than 140 questions it asked were not answered because they were classified. A few examples:

-- "How has the $25 million authorized by Congress for women in the Afghan army been used?"

-- "Total amount of funding that the United States has expended on Afghan National Army food from Afghan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) for the current year."

-- "Please confirm that the Combined Joint Interagency Task Force-Afghanistan (CJIATF-A) is dissolved."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Bowman is a NPR National Desk reporter covering the Pentagon.