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Latest Afghan Attacks Highlight Challenges of Training, Vetting Afghan Security Forces

Despite billions spent, efforts by the U.S. and NATO partners to train Afghan army and police forces continue to face setbacks.

The news out of Afghanistan seems to be almost all doom and gloom: 8 NATO soldiers and one civilian were killed today by a veteran Afghan army pilot who reportedly turned on his trainers.

The Taliban has claimed credit for the shooting, playing into fears of Taliban sleeper agents infiltrating Afghan security forces. Those fears have been stirred by a series of recent attacks as well as the escape of nearly 500 Taliban fighters from the largest prison in Afghanistan earlier this week. Reuters has a rundown of recent attacks by rogue Afghan soldiers, police and insurgents dressed in army uniforms.

As for the prison break, the Afghan government has called it a disaster and blamed it on NATO-trained Afghan security forces as well as the Canadian and U.S. security officials who have helped to oversee the jail, according to the Times:

Since the Taliban engineered a major break at the same prison in 2008 — freeing 1,200 prisoners — Canadian forces have mentored the Afghans who run the prison and NATO countries have spent several million dollars upgrading and training the prison administration, according to a Western official in Kabul.

The Afghan defense ministry announced last week that it would apply new scrutiny to Afghan army enrollment “in order to prevent enemies taking advantage,” Reuters reported. NATO has also been touting its efforts to stop the illegal sale of army uniforms and equipment.

News about the Afghan police force hasn’t been much better. This week the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan issued a report noting that recordkeeping by the Afghan interior ministry was so disorganized that the ministry “cannot accurately determine the size” of the Afghan National Police force. [PDF]

As we’ve noted, the United States has spent billions to train the dysfunctional police force, which has been riddled with high turnover and continued corruption. The report noted that, while other countries also contribute to funding the police, the United States has been the single largest contributor, providing about a third of all contributions since 2002.

“The Afghan government has taken many steps to address [Afghan National Police] accountability, but significant risks of fraud, waste, and abuse of donors’ funds will continue unless controls are improved,” [PDF] the acting Special Inspector General, Herbert Richardson, told a wartime contracting panel this week.

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