The Washington Post

Afghanistan on $1,605 a page

Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan. United States Plan for Sustaining the Afghanistan National Security Forces (Department of Defense)

So we turned to the Defense Department’s twice-yearly report — just out on Friday — entitled: “Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan,” which assesses the plan for improving the capacities of the Afghan national security folks.

The report, which covers matters from the rule of law, corruption, economic growth and road conditions to overall military and security issues, was itself something of a mixed bag, our colleague Greg Jaffe wrote Tuesday.

Things are improving, attacks are down, the Taliban ain’t what it used to be, we’re told, but it’s still formidable and operates “with impunity” from Pakistan.

There’s a nice review of what other players in the region are up to in that country, including a summary of an impressively heavy Indian aid footprint and strategic partnership agreement with Kabul — something that doubtless makes the Pakistanis immensely happy.

And while much of the report is boiler-plate update from prior ones, we still like all the neat color charts, maps and diagrams, such as one green and orange octagon on page 69 that shows the process for vetting recruits to guard against Taliban infiltration of the Afghan army.

Budget hawks will also enjoy the little sticker on the report that says that it cost the Pentagon “approximately” $207,000 to prepare the study.

The sticker is there — and on most congressionally mandated reports the Pentagon does — because former Secretary Bob Gates a few years ago got tired of wasting huge amounts of time and effort on the thousands of duplicative and unneeded reports done each year that hardly anyone on the Hill actually reads.

So the report, which for the first time features an Afghan soldier — not an American — on the cover, cost “approximately” $1,605 a page.

Good thing it wasn’t “War and Peace”.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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