Never Mind, Some Afghanistan Operations Just Got Declassified Again

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Ivan Plis Reporter, Daily Caller News Foundation
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The government watchdog for military spending in Afghanistan has convinced the Pentagon to reverse its decision to classify key data pertaining to the country.

In last week’s quarterly report, the special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction angrily objected to the sudden move of many pages worth of information on training the Afghan military to a secret appendix. (RELATED: Pentagon Spending In Afghanistan Just Got Way Less Transparent)

According to Reuters, a SIGAR spokesman has revealed that “a majority of the information has been declassified and we are in the process of reviewing it.”

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Campbell, had previously insisted that all information pertaining to the Afghan National Security Forces was important to keep secret for the sake of troops’ safety, though he remained “committed to maximum transparency.” But the information had been freely available for six years before it was classified, and Afghan officials did not consider the information to be a secret.

The data primarily consists of budget details for joint U.S. programs with the ANSF, including anticorruption work, literacy training, national police force salaries and other measures, totaling $65 billion. It also includes enlistment figures and other basic measures of the security force’s effectiveness. The data that remained was primarily top-level budget figures for broad categories such as “transportation.”

Many recruits to the ANSF have left service through injury or desertion, which the Pentagon ostensibly does not want publicized. But as The Daily Caller News Foundation noted at the time, The New York Times remarked that “the potential for embarrassment is not considered a legitimate rationale for classifying information.”

The new policy reversal is an example of what some call the “Streisand effect” — the phenomenon by which an attempt to conceal or downplay information accidentally leads to its greater exposure.

In its initial release, SIGAR had mentioned that over 140 of its questions to the Pentagon had “received classified or otherwise restricted responses.” Many of these will now be available to the public, which will be able to see for itself how effectively its taxes are being put to work in the aftermath of America’s 12 years in Afghanistan.

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