By: Scott Taylor
While Canada may have concluded a twelve year military commitment to the war in Afghanistan back in the spring of 2014, few taxpayers realize that we continue to spend over $150 million annually in support of the Afghan Security Forces. That is definitely not chump change and as such we should not only be concerned with how effectively that money is being spent, but also we should be following the internal happenings of the Afghan regime that we are paying so much to protect.
In terms of return on investment, the most recent quarterly report from the U.S. Special Inspector General - Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) paints a pretty bleak picture. From 1 January to 8 May 2017 the Afghan Security Forces have suffered a total of 2,531 soldiers killed and another 4,238 were wounded. That amounts to roughly 45 Afghan Security Force casualties a day, every day, which is at least five times higher than at the peak of fighting when U.S. and NATO forces were handling the combat operations.Despite the billions of dollars spent on weapons, equipment and training, the Afghan Security Forces are getting chewed up on the battlefield at an unsustainable rate.
Even more alarming was the SIGAR statistics for that same four month period, wherein they found at least 12,073 Ministry of Defence personnel were simply “unaccounted for”. This has been a long running theme throughout the rampantly corrupt Afghan forces, which has become commonly known as “Ghost Soldiers”. It is common practice in most units to draw pay and rations for soldiers who were killed, deserted or simply never existed. Likewise the clever Afghans continue to take fuel deliveries for vehicles that were long since disabled in order to sell the gasoline on the black market.
Even weapons and ammunition are sold, often to the very insurgents those troops are ostensibly being paid to fight. The Taliban’s primary source for weapons and ammo is the U.S. Supplied Afghan Security Force, and they have long since realized that it is far easier to simply buy them from disgruntled Afghan government troops than it is to attempt to capture them.
Canada’s $150 million is a drop in the bucket compared to the billions spent annually by the U.S. to prop up this ragtag army, but nevertheless it is a lot of money to be pumping into failed system that ultimately benefits the insurgents we are hoping to thwart.
Then there is the bigger question of what exactly we are hoping to protect with this fourth-rate security force. How corrupt and dysfunctional can the Afghan government really be? Well, let’s take a look at the most recent political developments involving the Vice President. Just last week General Abdul Rashid Dostum attempted to return to Afghanistan from exile in Turkey, but his private plane was refused landing rights by the authority of the government of President Ashraf Ghani and Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah.
Dostum’s alleged crime is the kidnapping and sexual assault of his political rival, Ahmed Eshchi, the governor of Jawzjan Province. What is even more crazy about this is that back in 2010, when I interviewed General Dostum in Kabul he was under house arrest for kidnapping, beating, and raping another of his political rivals. I also interviewed Dostum’s alleged victim in that case, Akbar Bey, a prominent leader of the Afghan Turkmen community. Bey could not believe that Dostum was seemingly above all laws as the Kabul regime needed his continued loyalty and that of his devoted ethnic-Uzbek followers
Dostum has been a notorious war-lord dating back to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. In those days he saw himself as a communist sympathizer, but when the Soviets withdrew he switched sides. Throughout his martial career Dostum has also been accused of numerous war crimes. However, immediately following the 9-11 terror attacks in 2001, he telephoned then U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to say he would be America’s best ally in Afghanistan. Kidnapping, rape, and mass murder allegations aside, the U.S. repaid Dostum’s loyalty by making him the Vice President in 2014.
Now Dostum is not just threatening to return to Kabul, but he has put together a coalition of other former warlords with which he intends to save Afghanistan from the corrupt regime of Ghani and Abdullah. Given this state of affairs is it any wonder that the Afghan Security Forces are demoralized? The outrageous political drama in Kabul makes the Trump White House look like a well oiled machine.
Surely there are better things on which to spend Canada’s $150 million annual stipend?