Earlier this month, Congress gave the greenlight to spend $11.6 billion more this year on training, equipping, housing and paying the Afghan army and police—which will be added to the $29 billion the American taxpayer has already spent trying to stand up a competent Afghan security apparatus.
And what are you getting for your tax dollars? Well, NATO, and the Afghan Ministry of the Interior, aren’t entirely sure—but they’re working on it.
A new audit conducted by the Congressionally mandated Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released yesterday found that the Afghan Ministry of Interior doesn’t have an accurate count of how many police officers it is paying each month—a problem in the effort to grow the force to 134,000 by October from the 125,000-strong force it is today (and up from 95,000 in November 2009.)
The audit states that while the Afghan government “does not have a complete personnel or human resource database to track and account for all ANP personnel data,” the Ministry of Interior and the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan are currently building a human resources system that will collect all pay, rank, and biometric data, but there are still several different personnel and human resources databases that remain unlinked, containing anywhere from 111,000 to 125,000 individuals.
The audit also finds that the United Nations Development Programme stands to be paid $70 million in management fees for overseeing the payment of $1.2 billion in police salaries since 2002, a full 5 percent of the total funds dedicated by the international community to pay police salaries, which the U.S. Embassy in Kabul agrees with SIGAR “is excessive.”
The part of the report that is generating headlines seems to be that the government doesn’t have an accurate count of how many police officers it has. We’ll just note (for the record) that DTI reported that fact almost two months ago, when the NTM-A’s Gen. Stuart Beare told me that the NTM-A and Afghan government are struggling to account for how many untrained police officers are out there. He would only say they “are in the tens of thousands,” with estimates ranging from 10,000 to more than 40,000 officers who haven’t seen any formal training, but are still on the beat. His office is trying to track them down and get them at least some rudimentary training when and where they can.
Before we condemn the entire program however, let’s remember that organizing Afghan institutions that didn’t exist until a few years ago—and that the building of the police force didn’t really begin on the scale it is now until November 2009—is complicated work, and that this whole thing is a process that won’t be smooth, cheap, or easy.