The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) Quarterly Report to Congress on Afghanistan has been published. The SIGAR October 2021 report has a wealth of information about the collapse of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) and the fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban in August 2021.
The SIGAR reports have consistently provided very accurate assessments of the situation in Afghanistan. The periodic and special reports of SIGAR have, when compared to assessments by the Department of Defense and Department of State, have always provided ‘ground truth’ about the ANDSF and the security situation in Afghanistan.
The SIGAR October 2021 report covers the period of July 1 to September 30, 2021. It addresses some of the important questions about the collapse of the Afghan government and the state of the ANDSF over the past several months. The report provides information and an update on the status of funds for Afghanistan, security, governance, the economy, and social development.
Findings of SIGAR October 2021 Report
Afghan Air Force and Special Mission Wing:
— As of July 31, the Afghan Air Force (AAF) had 131 available, usable aircraft among the 162 aircraft in its total inventory. In addition, 37 used UH-60 helicopters purchased from the U.S. Army for the AAF in 2017–2018 were held in strategic reserve in the United States. Additionally, at least six aircraft (three Mi-17s and UH-60s) were in a third country or the United States for maintenance. Also, four MD-530s were purchased to replace battle-damaged aircraft; two of the replacements were delivered in August, but DOD was able to extract them from HKIA.
— U.S. forces rendered non-mission capable all former Afghan Air Force (AAF) and Special Mission Wing (SMW) aircraft that remained at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA), according to the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. Prior to departing, U.S. forces rendered inoperable 80 AAF and SMW aircraft.
— Before the ANDSF disintegrated, AAF pilots reportedly flew about 25% of the total available aircraft inventory to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to avoid Taliban capture.
— The 10 costliest U.S.-funded contracts to train the Afghan National Army, Afghan Air Force, and Afghan National Army Special Operations Command personnel had a contract value of over $356 million, as of September 13. All of these training contracts were terminated for convenience following the collapse of the Afghan government. The potential recoupable funds from the terminated contracts is about $141 million, but final termination costs and disposition of training equipment and supplies have yet to be determined.
— The Defense Security Cooperation Management Office-Afghanistan (DSCMO-A) provided Afghan National Police (ANP) strength numbers as reported by the ANDSF in the Afghan Personnel and Pay System (APPS) from June 24, July 29, and August 14. The numbers appear highly questionable given the ongoing Taliban offensive at the time. On July 29 (when roughly half the districts in Afghanistan had been lost to the Taliban), 112,431 ANP were in APPS with 94.2% present for duty. On August 14, with most provinces lost and the day before the Afghan government collapsed, there were 112,924 ANP in APPS with 93.5% present for duty.
— According to the UN, the number of Afghans requiring humanitarian assistance in 2021 has reached approximately half of Afghanistan’s total estimated population. This figure is nearly double that of 2020, and a six-fold increase compared to four years ago.
— Afghanistan faces a worsening economic and humanitarian crisis. By September 2021, approximately 14 million people—or one out of three Afghans—were on the brink of starvation, according to the World Food Programme.
— On June 22, the Afghan government officially declared a drought. Wheat production is expected to drop by as much as 31% in 2021 compared to the previous year’s harvest with a 62% reduction in areas under cultivation; Afghanistan is facing a shortfall of 2.46 million metric tons of wheat as a result of poor harvests.
— In recent years, Afghanistan’s domestic agricultural production has been increasingly unable to meet the rising domestic demand for key crops, such as wheat. To meet this shortfall, the former Afghan government relied on agricultural imports. In late August, Kazakhstan reported that it was unwilling to export its wheat to Afghanistan given the country’s inability to pay following the suspension of Afghan financial assets by the U.S. government. The potential inability to finance the importation of crops to address food shortage increases the risk of famine within Afghanistan.
— On September 24, the Treasury Department announced that its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued two general licenses to support the continued flow of humanitarian assistance and other activities that support basic human needs in Afghanistan while “denying assets to the Taliban and other sanctioned entities and individuals.”
— The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) projects that by mid-2022, poverty levels in Afghanistan could increase by between seven and 25 percentage points, compared to 2020. Their analysis warns that Afghanistan could face the prospect of “near universal poverty” with around 97% of the country’s population living below the poverty line.
— Pakistan reported that its exports to Afghanistan had dropped by 73% following the Taliban takeover and the current economic crisis. But the value of Afghan exports to Pakistan increased by 142% from August 16-September 30, compared to July 1–August 15. A customs official reportedly attributed this increase to a decline in corrupt activities at border crossings, such as officials extorting drivers to pass into Pakistan, a practice that had inhibited trade.
— Since the collapse of the Afghan government, the afghani (AFN) depreciated against the U.S. dollar, dropping from approximately 77 AFN to the dollar to around 90 as of October 8. The devaluation of the AFN impacts the Afghan economy, which could further diminish Afghan households’ ability to purchase food and other necessities. Adding further pressure to the country’s limited cash reserves, Afghanistan does not have the technical capabilities to print its own currency.
U.S. Agencies, Funding, OFAC, and Future Assistance:
— The future of U.S. assistance to Afghanistan remains uncertain. The U.S. Department of State told SIGAR on September 29, that “the United States is not providing any assistance to the Taliban or any part of the government of Afghanistan.” State did not provide SIGAR with an update on the status of their programs, which had included efforts to support the rule of law and corrections.
— As of September 22, USAID reported that it had suspended all USAID-funded assistance activities, including any contact with the Afghan government. USAID requested their implementing partners not to carry out any agreement-specified activities, but to maintain staff and operational capacity, and to incur only reasonable, allocable, and allowable recurrent costs. USAID continued to disburse funds to those partners who needed to maintain staff and sustain operational capacity.
— U.S. Forces-Afghanistan reported that cumulative Foreign Excess Real Property (FERP) and Foreign Excess Personal Property (FEPP) transfers to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are valued at nearly $2.23 billion. Transfers in FY 2021 were valued at over $1.29 billion, including the transfer of Bagram Airfield (approximately $565.84 million) and the transfer of Kandahar Airfield (approximately $130.19 million).
The SIGAR October 2021 report is a PDF and 195 pages long.