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$200 Million Afghan Literacy Program is Failing

A $200 million U.S. aid program to teach members of the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) to read and write has failed. That is the message of a new report issued by the Special Instructor General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John F. Sopko.

This report is one of many coming from Sopko’s office as the war in Afghanistan draws to a close. The reports highlight a string of failed programs and wasteful spending.

"Literacy of the Afghan National Security Forces is of critical importance," Sopko said in a statement. "We've spent $200 million on this -- yet we don't even know how many Afghan security forces are literate or how well the program worked. That's deeply disturbing." 

The U.S. decided to add literacy classes to basic training for the ANSF five years ago. It awarded  three contracts to OT Training Solutions, Insight Group, and the Education Institute of Karwan to facilitate the training.

"Literate forces are easier to train, more capable and effective, and better able to understand human rights and the rule of law," the report says.

The literacy program was supposed to achieve first-grade reading proficiency for 100 percent of Afghan soldiers by the end of 2014 as well getting half of the forces to third-grade proficiency. Those goals may be “unattainable” or “unrealistic” according to officials who contributed to the report.

Defenders of the program point out that those goals were set in 2009 for an estimated end strength of 148,000 soldiers. The current authorized end strength is 352,000. It is also estimated that the ANSF suffers from a 30 to 50 percent desertion and drop-out rate, making it difficult to keep up numbers of fully-trained, literate troops.

In response to the report, NATO Training Mission headquarters in Kabul said it would be graduating thousands of new recruits in the coming months as well as adjusting its methods for literacy training.

 "The new approach ... focuses on more concrete deliverables that are tied to plans of instructions for the literacy levels," the response said. 

Sources: FoxChristian Science Monitor, The Guardian


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