The main military board that’s supposed to oversee Pentagon operations in Afghanistan, says it now has no way to track how billions of taxpayer dollars are being spent in that country.
The Special Instructor General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released its quarterly report this morning, bemoaning NATO's decision to keep data about the Afghan National Security Forces classified.
According to the report, SIGAR was notified of the move after much of the necessary data had already been shared. A few days later, the report says, the board was told that the Pentagon was retroactively making all of the data highly classified—meaning that they could see it, but not include any of the info in today's report.
"[The Pentagon] is about to come and scrub our computers of the data," Alex Bronstein-Moffl, SIGAR's director of public affairs, told Fusion in a phone call this morning. The data is being scrubbed from his organization's unclassified network, though they still have clearance to read it themselves.
"The decision leaves SIGAR unable to publicly report on most of the $65 billion U.S.-taxpayer-funded efforts to build, train, equip, and sustain the ANSF. This includes Afghan troop numbers, salaries, training, equipment (including planes and helicopters), and infrastructure projects," SIGAR said in a release about the report.
U.S. Army General John F. Campbell, the top U.S. Afghanistan commander, said he couldn't name the "precise reason why certain information was considered unclassified in the past."
"I can advise that given the risks that continue to exist against our forces and those of Afghanistan, I have directed that sensitive operative information or related materials, that could be used by those that threatened the force, or Afghan forces, be classified at the appropriate level," he wrote in response to SIGAR's request to explain the decision.
SIGAR is seemingly not too happy with the new policy. In a section of the report, the board lists pressing issues that they were unable to report on, due to the now-classified status of the data. Some examples of the things now left up in the air:
Please provide a broad definition of the terms “unavailable” and “present for duty.” (page 211)
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. (page 211)
How has the $25 million authorized by Congress for women in the Afghan army been used? (page 212)
Total amount of funding that the United States has expended on Afghan National Police salaries from ASFF for the current year. (page 212)
Please provide details of DOD/NATO-funded contracts to provide literacy training to the ANSF, including: a. the cost of the contract(s) and estimated cost(s) to complete (page 213)
Please confirm that the Combined Joint Interagency Task Force-Afghanistan (CJIATF-A) is dissolved. (page 215)
Please offer an assessment of the anticorruption initiatives of Afghan Ministry of Defense and Afghan Ministry of Interior (page 215)
SIGAR's Twitter feed has also been taking some seemingly passive-aggressive shots at the federal government all morning.
"The intention of the Twitter feed is to give the public a picture of what we have in the report," said SIGAR's Bronstein-Moffl. "But the reality is that the new policy leaves us unable to report on all those numbers."
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that the SIGAR staff no longer had clearance to read certain data. The classified data is being scrubbed from the organization's unclassified network, but the staff still has clearance to read the data themselves.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.