For the last 16 years, the Pentagon’s “progress” in the occupation of Afghanistan has been measured by officials through multiple different statistics, and one most often cited has been the size of the Afghan military. Those numbers have struggled recently, with Afghanistan not recruiting well nor retaining its recruits. So that’s not a metric anymore.
At least not as far as the public narrative is concerned. The Pentagon has announced that they have decided to make the size of the Afghan military, previously a very public part of their quarterly report, classified information.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko, regularly critical of secrecy in Afghanistan, noted that “The Afghans know what’s going on, the Taliban knows what’s going on, the US military knows what’s going on. The only people who don’t know what’s going on are the people paying for it.”
When Pentagon officials later said that the decision to keep the numbers secret was at the behest of unnamed Afghan officials, Sopko shot back “the government usually doesn’t classify good news. I don’t want any nameless, faceless Afghan bureaucrat telling the American taxpayer what they ought to know.”
While the Afghan bureaucrat serves as a scapegoat, keeping details about Afghan war woes away from the American public has been a top priority for President Trump for months, with his Afghan policy speech centering on the importance of being secretive about America’s intentions, and the large US escalation of troops in Afghanistan Trump announced itself was never specifically numbered.