US Military Classifies Information About Afghanistan's Troops

Information Had Been Publicly Available Before

For six years, the SIGAR has produced regular reports that track the progress of the $65 billion the United States has spent to build Afghanistan’s infrastructure, development and security forces. Those reports have included information about the Afghan security forces such as troop numbers, attrition rates, salaries, training and equipment.

The latest quarterly report released today includes that information in a classified appendix available only to government officials with a high enough security clearance.

"I am deeply concerned with the implications of this sudden classification decision and have raised it with the appropriate officials," said John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction.

Gen. John Campbell, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, explained his decision to classify the information in a letter to Sopko.

He wrote that while he could not comment “upon the precise reason why certain information was considered unclassified in the past, I can advise that given the risks that continue to exist to our forces and those of Afghanistan, I have directed that sensitive operational information or related materials, that could be used by those who threaten the force, or Afghan forces, be classified at an appropriate level.”

He added, “With lives literally on the line, I am sure that you can join me in recognizing that we must be careful to avoid providing sensitive information to those that threaten our forces and Afghan forces, particularly information that can be used by such opposing forces to sharpen their attacks,” wrote Campbell.

Campbell wrote that he fully supports SIGAR’s role, “However, I am compelled to also protect the lives of those individuals who could be put at risk by the release of sensitive information."

According to SIGAR, Campbell’s command provided classified or restricted responses to 140 questions including some seeking definitions for the terms “unavailable” and “present for duty.”

Among other things it also sought the total amount of funding the U.S. has spent on food for the Afghan Army and on the salaries for Afghan National Police that came from a specially created fund.

However, the last of those reports was released in October with the pending end of the combat mission in Afghanistan in December.