With all eyes on Russia and Ukraine, there are some who argue it wouldn’t even be an issue now if it weren’t for America’s deadly exit from Afghanistan last year. Analysts told us the chaotic withdrawal would embolden our adversaries, including Russia. Today, we talk with the Special Inspector General on Afghanistan, John Sopko. Some of his warnings about what was likely to go wrong in Afghanistan were only recently declassified.
The following is a transcript of a report from “Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson.” Watch the video by clicking the link at the end of the page.
Sharyl Attkisson: Did you have more warning or hint of the timing and what was going to happen than anybody else did?
John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction: We had been warning the administration and Congress for years of the inability of the Afghan government to stand on our own.
In January last year, before the disastrous and deadly US withdrawal, Inspector General John Sopko issued a report with a stark warning for the Pentagon. It said U.S. contractors were the only thing keeping the Afghan Air Force flying.
John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction: And we basically said, ‘Everybody’s focusing on US troops leaving, but not the fact that the agreement that was signed says all of the contractors have to leave.’ And we predicted that if that happened, the Afghan Air Force would collapse in a matter of months.’
The Pentagon, he says, ignored his advice to implement a support plan for the Afghan Air Force, and kept the report and his warning classified for a year— until just last month.
Sharyl Attkisson: We’ve still not heard that anyone here was held accountable or those in positions of authority, really think anything could have been done differently in the withdrawal. Are you investigating that process? Is that under your umbrella?
John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction: The actual withdrawal? No. I mean, Congress has asked us to look at a number of things. Number one: Why did the military collapse, even after we gave them $88 billion? Why did it collapse so suddenly? What happened to all the weapons and hardware and what is the Taliban doing with it as well as what happened to all the money that we were pumping over up to the bitter end? And then lastly, what happened to all the people who believed in us, the Afghan women, the Afghan girls, the Afghan journalists, the judges, the prosecutors. But we have not been asked to look at the withdrawal of our military as well as the withdrawal of the Afghans who helped us.
Sharyl Attkisson: What’s your comment after watching how much we spent over the years, all the oversight you’ve done only to leave like we did and have a lot of things, apparently reverse back to what they used to be, or at least not continue traveling in the direction that we wanted, was the money wasted?
John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction: Well, as a taxpayer, obviously I think every taxpayer said, ‘Gee, that wasn’t a great ending to this movie.’ But I had a personal tie to it because I worked there for 10 years. I had people who worked there. I also knew Afghans, a lot of brave Afghans. We forget that 60 to 80,000 Afghan soldiers and police died during this time. Now we lost quite a few Americans, but they did the most of the bleeding and dying over there. So I knew these people and yeah, it’s troubling.
Sharyl Attkisson: Finally, what would you say to taxpayers who wonder now what their money is being spent on over there and wonder if it’ll do any good?
John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction: Well, I think the administration and I think Congress needs to tell the American people again, what is the purpose of this humanitarian aid? And don’t discuss it behind closed doors, and don’t just stamp classified on it, which we tend to see every time we get into an issue like this. And I think the American people have a right to know from Congress and the administration: How you are going to make certain it goes to a starving child and not just some fat Taliban leader and we don’t end up sending the money, it ends up with ISIS. And I think we need a discussion, an open, fair, honest, nonpartisan discussion about how money is being spent on our behalf.
Sharyl (on-camera): Full Measure filed a Freedom of Information request with the military for the After Action report, their internal analysis on the Afghanistan withdrawal. The law requires them to provide the document within 20 days. However, they didn’t and nobody enforces the Freedom of Information law. This request is 3,705 behind other information requests, so it’s going to be awhile.