Billions spent on the Afghan military finally benefited the Taliban – The Denver Publish

WASHINGTON – Built and trained for two decades at a cost of $ 83 billion, Afghan security forces collapsed so quickly and completely – in some cases without a shot – that the Taliban turned out to be the ultimate beneficiary of the American investment. In addition to seizing political power, they seized US-supplied firepower – weapons, ammunition, helicopters, and more.

The Taliban captured a range of modern military equipment when they overran Afghan troops who were unable to defend the district centers. Bigger wins followed, including fighter jets, as the Taliban rolled into provincial capitals and military bases at breakneck speed and captured the biggest prize, Kabul, over the weekend.

A US defense official confirmed Monday that the Taliban’s sudden accumulation of US-supplied Afghan equipment is enormous. The officer was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The reversal is an embarrassing consequence of the misjudgment of the viability of Afghan government forces – both by the US military and intelligence agencies – which in some cases have chosen to surrender their vehicles and weapons rather than fight.

The US failure to build a sustainable Afghan army and police force, and the reasons for its collapse, have been studied by military analysts for years. However, the basic dimensions are clear and are similar to those in Iraq. The troops turned out to be hollow, armed with superior weapons, but lacking the vital part of combat motivation.

“You can’t buy will with money. You can’t buy leadership, “said John Kirby, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

Doug Lute, a retired army lieutenant general who helped direct Afghan war strategy during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, said that what Afghans were given in material resources they lacked in more important intangibles .

“The principle of war applies – moral factors dominate material factors,” he said. “Morality, discipline, leadership, unit cohesion are more important than the number of armed forces and equipment. As outsiders in Afghanistan we can provide material, but only Afghans can provide the immaterial moral factors. “

In contrast, the Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan proved to be a superior force with fewer numbers, less sophisticated weapons and no air force. The US intelligence services have largely underestimated the extent of this superiority, and even after President Joe Biden announced in April that all US troops would be withdrawn, the intelligence services did not expect such a spectacular final offensive by the Taliban.

“If we hadn’t used hope as an option … we would have realized that the rapid withdrawal of US forces was a signal to the Afghan National Forces that they were being abandoned,” said Chris Miller, who oversaw the fighting in Afghanistan observed 2001 and was Assistant Secretary of Defense at the end of President Donald Trump’s tenure.

Stephen Biddle, professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University and a former advisor to U.S. commanders in Afghanistan, said Biden’s announcement started the final collapse.

“The problem with the US withdrawal is that it sent a nationwide signal that the device was high – a sudden, nationwide signal that everyone reads the same,” said Biddle. Before April, the Afghan government forces slowly but steadily lost the war, he said. When they found out that their American partners were going home, the impulse to give up without a fight spread like “wildfire”.

However, the failures go back much further and go much deeper. The United States was quick to build a credible Afghan defense establishment while fighting the Taliban, trying to broaden the political foundations of government in Kabul and establish democracy in a country full of corruption and nepotism.

Year after year, US military leaders downplayed the problems and insisted that success would come. Others saw the handwriting on the wall. In 2015, a professor at the Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute wrote about the military’s failure to learn lessons from past wars; he subtitled his book “Why the Afghan National Security Forces Won’t Hold”.

“As for the future of Afghanistan, the United States has taken this path twice at a strategic level, in Vietnam and Iraq, and there are no solid reasons why the results will be different in Afghanistan,” said Chris Maurer. Looking ahead, he added, “Slow decline is inevitable and state failure is a matter of time.”

Some elements of the Afghan army fought hard, including commandos whose heroic endeavors are still fully documented. But overall, the security forces created by the United States and its NATO allies represented a “house of cards” the collapse of which, according to Anthony Cordesman, was driven as much by the failure of US civilian leaders as their military partners, a longtime Afghanistan war analyst at the center for strategic and international studies.

Afghan troop build-up was so dependent on American generosity that the Pentagon even paid Afghan troops’ salaries. Too often that money and myriad amounts of fuel have been siphoned off by corrupt officers and government overseers who boiled the books and created “ghost soldiers” to keep the wasted dollars going.

Of the roughly $ 145 billion the U.S. government spent on rebuilding Afghanistan, about $ 83 billion went, according to the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan, a Congress-created watchdog that has been tracking the war on developing and maintaining its army and police force since 2008. The $ 145 billion is in addition to the $ 837 billion the United States spent on the war that began with an invasion in October 2001.

The $ 83 billion invested in Afghan armed forces over 20 years is nearly double the budget of the entire U.S. Marine Corps last year and slightly more than what Washington budgeted for food stamp aid to about 40 million Americans last year.

In his book “The Afghanistan Papers,” journalist Craig Whitlock wrote that US trainers tried to force Afghan recruits to follow western routes and cared little about whether US taxpayers’ money was investing in a truly viable army.

“However, since US war strategy depended on the performance of the Afghan army, the Pentagon paid surprisingly little attention to the question of whether Afghans were ready to die for their government,” he wrote.

Contributors to this report were AP authors Nomaan Merchant, Lorne Cook in Brussels, and James LaPorta in Boca Raton, Florida.

Comments are closed.