Some widows of Afghan National Security Force members killed in action were forced to perform sexual favors for officials before they could obtain pension benefits, U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko said Thursday.
Sopko relayed the anecdotes as evidence of the U.S. military’s need to focus the bulk of its efforts in Afghanistan on building up an effective security force, asking the audience “would any American put up with that?”
He said that the U.S. is “trying to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people,” but “first need to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan Security Forces.” Sopko also unveiled a report on lessons learned from America’s longest war, painting a grim view of morale within the Afghan National Security Forces, which is facing a historic challenge in the Taliban insurgent movement.
The Taliban currently controls approximately 40 percent of the entire country, more territory than it has at any time since the U.S. invasion in 2001. The Afghan National Security Forces have been unable to secure the country, despite the presence of thousands of U.S. troops and approximately $70 billion spent by U.S. taxpayers since the beginning of the war.
The scathing SIGAR report detailed pervasive corruption and extortion throughout the Afghan National Security Forces at all levels of the force, which affects morale.
“High-level corruption, such as that exhibited by some ANDSF leaders, is likely to promote lower-level corruption, as a culture of impunity starts at the top and then normalizes corrupt behavior within the entire system,” the report said of the effects of corruption within the force. “Reports of corruption have been widespread and varied, including, but not limited to, participation in the drug trade, extortion, pay- for-position schemes, bribery, land grabbing, and selling U.S. and NATO-supplied equipment, sometimes even to insurgents.”
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