Defense Secretary Ashton Carter arrives at Kandahar on his first visit to Afghanistan since his swearing in.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter arrives at Kandahar on his first visit to Afghanistan since his swearing in. Jonathan Ernst/AP

Watchdog Launches Review on Future Size of Afghan Forces

Move comes on heels of Carter visit and rethinking of U.S. troop strength.

The top watchdog for U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan is seeking details on the prospective size of Afghan security forces, at a time when the Obama administration is reportedly considering slowing the removal of U.S. troops from that war-torn country. Newly sworn in Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter visited Afghanistan Saturday to assess the situation there. 

In a Feb. 19 letter to two top commanders in the region released Tuesday, John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction, wrote, “I am making this request because size and force structure are important factors in determining the costs associated with training, equipping and housing Afghan soldiers and police officers.”

The United States has spent more than $50 billion to support Afghan troops over the past decade, forces that by one calculation are projected to end up at 352,000 for the army, air force and national police, Sopko noted.  But “an independent assessment of the ANSF performed by the Center for Naval Analyses in 2014 concluded that in order to maintain national security through 2018, the ANSF would need a force of approximately 373,000 soldiers and police officers,” he said.

To resolve that discrepancy of 21,000 troops, Sopko asked Gen. John F. Campbell and Major Gen. Todd Semonite to deliver, by March 5: the following:

  • The capabilities assessment and other analyses used to determine the current authorized end-strengths;
  • Security objectives to be supported by the ANSF as well as the concept of operations for employing those forces;
  • A breakdown of corps, echelon above corps, and Special Mission Wing assignments for current and planned ANSF end-strengths;
  • A breakdown of personnel levels in the National Directorate for Security, the Afghan Public Protection Force, and the Afghan Local Police, as well as the civilian personnel levels in the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior;
  • A description of the metrics and/or milestones that will be used to determine the timing and degree of the planned drawdown; and
  • A copy of the force optimization report.
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