• Kerry’s ‘Considerable Confidence’ Belied By Latest Afghanistan Report

    Afghanistan is in danger of becoming a haven for terrorists again once U.S. forces leave in three weeks, according to a government oversight report released Wednesday. On top of that, widespread corruption, narcotics trade and financial problems plague the country.

    Even so, Secretary of State John Kerry expressed “considerable confidence” for Afghanistan’s future at the London Conference on Afghanistan last week.

    “And never before has the prospect of a more fully independent and sustainable Afghanistan been more clear than it is at this moment as we assemble here in London,” Kerry told the crowd.

    After more than $100 billion U.S. dollars spent rebuilding Afghanistan and investing in its security forces, much of it will begin to fall apart when the U.S. leaves in three weeks, according to the report.

    “The evidence strongly suggests that Afghanistan lacks the capacity—financial, technical, managerial, or otherwise—to maintain, support, and execute much of what has been built or established during more than a decade of international assistance,” the report states.

    Kerry also expressed confidence in an Afghan government, whereas the oversight report calls Afghanistan one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

    “My friends, we have a government in Kabul that merits our confidence and our support,” Kerry said.

    The report, however, points to “widespread corruption in Afghan society and government entities” that endangers its long-term sustainability. Every Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) quarterly report has pointed to the serious problem of “pervasive corruption” in Afghanistan.

    “Corruption is one of the most serious threats to the U.S.-funded Afghanistan reconstruction effort,” the report states.

    The Inspector General for the report compared Afghanistan’s corruption with Iraq, where it was recently discovered that 50,000 soldiers on the payroll actually don’t exist.

    Almost entirely dependent on international donors and threatened with Taliban takeover, Afghanistan does not appear to be the rising “independent” star that Kerry portrayed.

    Kerry did acknowledge the future security challenges faced by Afghanistan, which are significant.

    The U.S. has spent $62 billion on Afghanistan’s national security forces, but dire financial problems for the country leave them unable to maintain enough forces to prevent terrorists from stationing in the country again.

    “Ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a haven for international terrorists depends on the ANSF’s ability to secure the country,” the report states. “But under current and future plans, the ANSF is not fiscally sustainable.”

    Because the country cannot prevent terrorists from stationing there on its own, it relies heavily on support from international donors. If that support wanes, however, the country will be in serious trouble.

    In three weeks U.S. combat operations will end, according to John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. More than 10,000 will remain but only in a support role that is a fraction of help Afghanistan has grown used to.

    The report raises concerns about the Taliban and the possibility of it regaining power in Afghanistan. The report cites the Center for Naval Analyses, a group that said the a Taliban military effort in Afghanistan will be increasingly likely by 2018.

    “History suggests that the Taliban will use sanctuaries in Pakistan to regenerate their capabilities as military pressure on the movement declines,” the CNA report states. “In the 2015–2016 timeframe, we assess that the Taliban are likely to try to keep military pressure on the ANSF in rural areas, expand their control 3 and influence in areas vacated by coalition forces, encircle key cities, conduct high-profile attacks in Kabul and other urban areas, and gain leverage for reconciliation negotiations. In 2016–2018, once the insurgency has had time to recover from the last several years of U.S. and NATO operations, a larger and more intense military effort will become increasingly likely.”

    According to Sopko, even if Afghanistan spent all its domestic revenue on national security, it could cover barely half those costs. Then there would be education, infrastructure, government employees and all the other expenses of running a national government.

    Afghanistan’s revenue covers 37 percent of its budget, according to the report. The International Monetary Fund expects the country’s budget shortfall to be $7.7 billion annually through 2018.

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