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SIGAR report: Afghanistan High Risks List 2019 – a powerful warning for the near future

March 29, 2019

Summary: Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction gives powerful and credible warnings about Afghanistan’s future – corruption, economic, women’s rights and the risks of integrating thousands of Taliban insurgents if a peace settlement is reached.

John Sopko and the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction have been speaking truth to power about the failings of the US and international community’s use of resources – financial, military, political, economic – in Afghanistan for a long time.  They routinely produce hard hitting critique – based on extensive fieldwork and rigorous collection and analysis of data – that undermine US and Afghan government assertions that all is going well.  Frankly, in the era of Trump, I am slightly surprised that they are still being allowed to do this.

The SIGAR report was briefed at CSIS. L to R: Sopko, Cordesman and Jones

The new SIGAR report is no exception.  It contains powerful and credible warnings about the near future.

I shall just executively summarise their executive summary thus:


  • With or without a peace settlement, Afghanistan will likely continue to grapple with multiple violent-extremist organizations, who threaten Afghanistan and the international community.
  • The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are constrained by capability challenges and depend on donor support of $4billion to $5billion per year to fund their sustainment, equipment, infrastructure, and training costs.
  • According to the NATO Resolute Support (RS) mission, control of Afghanistan’s districts, population, and territory has become more contested over the last two years, resulting in a stalemated battlefield environment


  • The United States has spent more than $1billion since 2002 to advance the status of women in Afghanistan.
  • Despite this investment, gains by women in Afghanistan remain fragile even with a constitution that nominally protects women’s rights.
  • During their 1996–2001 regime, the Taliban oppressed women brutally, leading to concerns that women’s rights will not be protected in the event of a peace settlement
    with the group.


  • The illicit drug trade funds the Taliban insurgency as well as corrupt members of the Afghan government, military, and police, and also employs nearly 600,000 Afghans.
  • A truce or peace settlement between the Taliban and the Afghan government may not necessarily lead to a decline in the illicit narcotics trade.


  • The social, economic, and political reintegration of tens of thousands of former fighters into Afghan society will be critical for the country to achieve lasting peace and stability.
  • Failure to successfully reintegrate an estimated 60,000 Taliban fighters and their families, and other illegal armed groups, could undermine the successful implementation of any peace agreement.
  • Ex-combatants will face the challenges of a weak economy with few livelihood options, political uncertainty, ongoing insecurity, and distrust among a populace traumatized by war.


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