Declassified reports about the progress in Afghanistan will no longer be made public under a new policy instituted by the Pentagon.
John Sopko of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), an independent auditing agency, explained his own dismay with the Pentagon’s decision.
“This development is troubling for a number of reasons, not least of which is that this is the first time SIGAR has been specifically instructed not to release information marked 'unclassified' to the American taxpayer,” Sopko said.
The data restriction includes information on the size and capabilities of the Afghan army and police forces. It also restricts access to information on how much territory the Taliban has reclaimed on the ground in Afghanistan, creating huge obstacles for the American public to judge how well President Donald Trump and his administration are managing the conflict.
The restriction of information is problematic because it does not allow the American people to know the full extent of progress in the 16-year war. The announcement comes just days after a Taliban-led attack killed around 100 individuals in Kabul.
Sopko expressed deep concern over restricting information, namely that it kept the American people (as well as Congressional staffers) in the dark about key elements regarding the war.
“The number of districts controlled or influenced by the Afghan government had been one of the last remaining publicly available indicators for members of Congress — many of whose staff do not have access to the classified annexes to SIGAR reports — and for the American public of how the 16-year-long U.S. effort to secure Afghanistan is faring,” he said.
It is indeed a disappointing and disturbing turn of events. Trump has indicated that he is clueless about the war in Afghanistan in the past. The American people deserve to know how their taxpayer dollars are being spent, and what progress (or lack thereof) is being made on the ground in a country we’ve had troops stationed in for almost two whole decades.
We shouldn’t be surprised, of course, considering how Trump and others within his administration have tried to guard against the release of his own information — namely, his tax records. But despite this not-so-surprising development, we should still be outraged by what has transpired. The American people deserve information about the war to be made public, especially if it’s already been deemed declassified by the Pentagon.