Departure of U.S. Contractors Poses Problems for Afghan Military

These questions, which are fundamental to the survival of the Afghan National Security Forces after the withdrawal of the US military, are still being eroded. The fact that they are still being addressed even as the last US troops prepare to withdraw speaks to the years of separation between the Pentagon and a number of presidents, all of whom at some point sought a smaller American presence in the country than officials in the military and the US Ministry of Defense.

Dealing with contractors is just one of several pressing problems that have arisen as a result of the rapid withdrawal of American troops. The CIA is fighting to ensure it can gather information about potential threats from Afghanistan once the US military presence ends.

The Pentagon is still considering how it will attack terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda from a distance when it runs out of troops or fighter planes in Afghanistan. And the government has yet to reach agreements to position troops in nearby countries for counter-terrorism operations.

The Afghan government has always relied heavily on foreign contractors and trainers. There were over 18,000 Department of Defense contractors in Afghanistan this spring, including 6,000 Americans, 5,000 Afghans and 7,000 from other countries, 40 percent of whom are responsible for logistics, maintenance or training, according to John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

The Afghan security forces rely on these contractors to maintain their equipment, manage supply chains, and train their military and police to operate the advanced equipment the United States has bought for them.

For example, during a virtual forum this year, Mr Sopko spoke about the challenges Afghans face during maintenance work. In December, the Afghan National Army carried out almost 20 percent of its own maintenance jobs, well below the target of 80 percent and the 51 percent it completed in 2018. The Afghan National Police performed only 12 percent of their own maintenance work, while the target was 35 percent.

Since 2010, the Department of Defense has allocated over $ 8.5 billion to develop a powerful and sustainable Afghan Air Force and its special mission wing, but American politicians and commanders have always known that both of them have continuous, expensive logistical support from contractors for maintenance and upkeep aircraft would require training, the inspector general’s office concluded in a report in February.

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