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GAO Criticizes U.S. Strategy on Afghan Forces

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

After six years and $16.5 billion in spending, the Defense and State departments still lack a "sustainable strategy" for developing Afghanistan's army and police force, government auditors said yesterday.

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A Government Accountability Office report said that despite congressional demands, the Bush administration has not provided detailed plans and goals for the effort.

The GAO said the Afghan army, with an authorized force structure of 80,000, now numbers about 58,000 and has "difficulties finding qualified candidates for leadership positions." The reenlistment rate was approximately 53 percent, the report said, and only two of 105 army units "are assessed as being fully capable of conducting their primary mission." It said that "no police unit is fully capable."

In a written response, the Pentagon said the program was "well-reasoned [and] successful . . . despite numerous challenges" and disagreed with a GAO recommendation that Congress consider conditioning future funding on the development of a more comprehensive strategy. The State Department said it was "deeply concerned" about the recommendation, adding that the "Afghan National Security Forces are the backbone of our counterinsurgency efforts."

-- Karen DeYoung

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