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U.S. Walks Back Decision To Classify Info On Afghan Security Forces

The United States is walking away from a decision to classify detailed statistics about the Afghan security forces.

As we reported, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, complained that the classification of this information — everything from numbers on equipment to training to attrition — would harm the watchdog's effort to publicly account for the billions of dollars the United States invests in Afghan forces.

The New York Times reports the NATO coalition reversed course but it did not back off the rationale that it was classifying the data because releasing it publicly could help the Taliban.

The Times reports:

"In a statement, it said the data that it believed could aid Afghan insurgents, such as readiness assessments of Afghan army and police units, would remain secret. The readiness reports were actually classified late last year, a few months before the more basic data on the composition of Afghan forces and American spending to support them was deemed secret.

"But now a range of the more basic data about the security forces will again be public, the command said.

"The command, explaining its reversal, said that much of the information had been deemed secret because it was combined with 'related classified information.' But that same information, 'when viewed alone, is suitable for public release,' it said."

The classifications came to light last week when SIGAR released its quarterly report. The report noted that the command in Afghanistan refused to answer some simple questions — like how much the U.S. had spent on food for the Afghan Security forces — saying it was now classified information.

Reuters reports that SIGAR said on Monday that it had received word that "a majority of the information has been declassified and we are in the process of reviewing it."

Alex Bronstein-Moffly, a spokesman for SIGAR, said it had "received hundreds of pages of docs" in Afghanistan and is in the process of trying to analyze them.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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