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US inadvertently aided Taliban resurgence by forming alliances with warlords: watchdog

16 Jan 2020 1TV News

The United States inadvertently aided the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan by forming alliances convenience with warlords who had been pushed out of power by the group, a watchdog agency said on Wednesday.

In a detailed written testimony to US Congress, John Sopko, head of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR),said that the coalition paid warlords to provide security and, in many cases, to run provincial and district administrations, on the assumption that the United States would eventually hold those warlords to account when they committed acts of corruption and brutality.

“That accounting rarely took place and the abuses committed by coalition-aligned warlords drove many Afghans into the arms of the resurgent Taliban,” Sopko said.

He also blamed a combination of errors concerning strategy and accountability in Afghan war.

“There’s an odor of mendacity throughout the Afghanistan issue,” Sopko said in a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“We have incentivized lying to Congress,” Sopko claimed. “And by that I mean the whole incentive is to show success and to ignore failure, and when there’s too much failure? Classified. Or don’t report it.” He described “exaggeration after exaggeration of what we accomplished” that “went all the way up to the president.”

According to Sopko, corruption within the Afghan military is a serious problem below the officer level.

“You have a lot of corruption, a lot of incompetency and it’s seriously hurting the Afghan military,” he said. “The biggest problem is not casualties it’s desertions. It’s people disappearing or it’s people who never existed and we’re paying their salaries.”

Judges are often absent from the courthouses because they are afraid to show up and people often need to pay bribes in order to get anything accomplished, Sopko explained.

“As much as you hate the Taliban, and I do,” he said, “to the average Afghan it’s better than the justice provided by the national unity government.”

Sopko also said that there are a number of serious threats to a sustainable peace in Afghanistan that will not miraculously disappear with signing a peace agreement.

According to the watchdog, there are roughly 60,000 Taliban fighters and their families who would have to be reintegrated into society.

“That costs money,” he told the committee. “Can the Afghans do that? No.”

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