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U.S. Report On Spending In Afghanistan Classified For First Time

The latest quarterly report on U.S. spending in Afghanistan was released on Thursday. Conspicuously missing were figures on how more than $50 billion is being spent on training and equipping Afghan military and police forces. Those figures have been classified for the first time in years of such reporting and the general who ordered keeping them secret says it's to keep enemies from sharpening their attacks. Key senators disagree.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Every three months, the special inspector general offers an independent view on the war in Afghanistan. The IG, John Sopko, has issued reports on how well and sometimes how badly American tax dollars are being spent to shore up the government in Kabul. Well, today, the latest report is out, but it was missing the usual details on funding for the Afghan military and police. That's because the top American general in Afghanistan has decided those details must now be kept secret. NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: In his report released today, Inspector General Sopko says most of the data on Afghanistan's security forces, spending levels, troop strength and readiness equipment is now classified, a development he called unprecedented. A spokesman for General John Campbell who ordered the classification wrote NPR today justifying the secrecy, saying that data could, quote, "jeopardize the operational security of our Afghan partners to include unnecessarily highlighting possible vulnerabilities in capability gaps."

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: We need to have a lot more of that made public.

WELNA: That's John McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

MCCAIN: These are taxpayers' dollars. Now, there may be some sensitive information, and I'll be glad to listen to that, but a blanket censorship is not acceptable.

WELNA: And Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who serves on McCain's committee, today called the classification of the Afghan spending data incomprehensible.

SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: I'm going to push for greater disclosure because it's a duty on the part of the Pentagon in spending taxpayer money, particularly on training where there seems to be little if any justification for keeping secret how taxpayer money is used.

WELNA: And there's a good reason for keeping that information public, says Senate's number two Democrat, Dick Durbin.

SENATOR DICK DURBIN: We've learned some better lessons in places like Iraq where massive amounts of money were being spent on training, and as soon as the United States left the scene, it fell apart.

WELNA: Congressional insiders say the armed services committee could order that the classified information in the inspector general's report be made public. The order to keep the spending data secret coincided with the formal end of U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan at the end of last year. But close to 10,000 U.S. troops remain there to train Afghan forces, and billions of dollars have been budgeted for that effort - just how much remains unclear since that information is now secret. David Welna, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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