US Watchdog Blasts Pentagon, State Department for Concealing Afghan Data

Photo credit: Reuters

The State Department and Pentagon suppressed information that almost certainly would have benefited Congress and the public in assessing the collapse of Afghanistan’s former government and military and the chaotic US troop pullout, a US government watchdog said on Friday as quoted by CNN.

John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR) pointed that only if the information that the departments of Defense and State have restricted from public release is made available, the full picture of what happened in August will be revealed along withall the warning signs that could have predicted the outcome.

Speaking at the Military Reporters & Editors Association Annual Conference in Arlington, Virginia, Sopko, who has been a consistent and harsh critic of the way the Afghan war was conducted, stressed that he has faced recent pressure from the State Department to redact some of their reports and referenced numerous attempts to impede his work.

He noted that US agencies have made difficult for SIGAR to provide honest reporting, underlying that the Pentagon classified much of its work detailing the failings of Afghanistan’s own military forces, and nearly all the information needed to determine if they were a real fighting force or a house of cards waiting to fall.

The redacted data included unit strength, training and operation deficiencies, tactical and operational readiness of Afghan military leadership, comprehensive assessments of Afghan security force leadership and operational readiness rates.

Sopko also pointed that the State Department asked him to temporarily suspend online access to certain reports he issued in order to ensure the safety of US-affiliated Afghans after the Taliban seized Kabul without describing any specific threats to individuals that were supposedly contained in those reports

The State Department has recently sought redactions of some 2,400 items remaining on SIGAR’s website, , including some “bizarre” ones such as removing all mentions of former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

SIGAR found only four items meriting redaction after its review, leaving the remainder accessible.

State Department confirmed that due to security concerns about the evacuation effort, it had requested temporary removal of some reports to redact identifying information and protect the identities of Afghans and Afghan partner organizations.

The department’s spokesperson also stressed that SIGAR has the authority to restore the reports.

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