For those of us of a certain age, the numbers we recall from the Vietnam War were the enemy body counts. The Pentagon deemed the toll of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong corpses as a proxy for progress.
But now the boot is on the other foot. The Pentagon is suddenly denying us friendly body counts from Afghanistan, where Americans have been fighting for more than 16 years, at a cost of 2,194 U.S. troops’ lives and nearly $1 trillion. More than $70 billion of that sum is to train and outfit the Afghan security forces to fight the Taliban on their own. How are they doing? None of your business.
Afghanistan remains a sucking chest wound, and the U.S. military is the medic valiantly fighting to keep it alive. If Washington wanted this information made public, it would be.
In his 37th quarterly report released date Oct. 30, John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said the Pentagon’s Afghan command is denying the public information about “important measures of [Afghan military] performance such as casualties, personnel strength, attrition, and the operational readiness of equipment.”
The Pentagon is quick to blame the Afghan government for the missing information. The Pentagon told Sopko that “the casualty data belonged to the Afghan government, and the government had requested that it be classified,” his report said. The Pentagon said “a recent legal review determined that this [Afghan] data belongs to the Afghan government and therefore [the U.S.] must withhold, restrict, or classify the data as long as the Afghan government has classified it.”
That’s ridiculous: Since 2002, Kabul has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of the U.S. Department of Defense. Afghanistan remains a sucking chest wound, and the U.S. military is the medic valiantly fighting to keep it alive. If Washington wanted this information made public, it would be.
We’ve been through this before: in 2015, the U.S. military classified details about the Afghan war that previously had been released, a decision that was pretty much reversed shortly as soon as it was made public. But citing Afghanistan as the reason for the latest round of missing data gives the Pentagon a club to keep it hidden that it didn’t have last time.
“Abusing classification as a tool to extinguish sunlight undermines public confidence that U.S. taxpayer dollars are being well-spent on America’s longest war,” says Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican who chairs the judiciary committee. “There can’t be accountability without transparency.” (end of excerpt)
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