Despite spending $88 billion on security-related reconstruction in Afghanistan through March 2021, the US aid spending watchdog for Afghanistan warned last month that the US military had little or no way of knowing the capability of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) when required to operate independently of US forces.
The Taliban have 80,000 troops in comparison to the Afghan government’s nominal 300,699, but the entire country has been effectively overrun in a matter of weeks as military commanders surrendered without a fight in a matter of hours.
It is a storey of two armies, one poorly equipped but ideologically motivated, and the other nominally well-equipped but dependent on NATO support, poorly led, and riddled with corruption, according to the Guardian.
It found the US military to be persistently overly optimistic about Afghan military capability, despite the lack of reliable evidence, and said the departure of thousands of US contractors, agreed to by the US and the Taliban in 2020, “could significantly impact the ANDSF’s sustainability, particularly their ability to maintain aircraft and vehicles.”
The watchdog had repeatedly warned about the “corrosive effects of corruption” within the force, according to the report. With its reliance on advanced equipment and widespread illiteracy among its ranks, the force was unable to maintain its strength and combat readiness on a consistent basis.
Of the $88.3 bn spent, the watchdog said: “The question of whether that money was well spent will ultimately be answered by the outcome of the fighting on the ground, perhaps the purest monitoring and evaluation exercise.”
The report’s clear warnings are likely to be reviewed by the US Congress as it seeks to understand why such massive spending on training the Afghan military has resulted in the Taliban’s collapse in a matter of weeks, leaving western politicians stunned and bemused.
— Ramiz (@RamizReports) August 15, 2021
It also begs the question of why the Biden administration thought it was safe to leave Afghan forces to their own devices after decades of relying on the US for critical skills such as air cover, logistics, maintenance, and training support for ANDSF ground vehicles and aircraft; security; base support; and transportation services. Even as recently as July 8, the US president stated that there was no chance of Afghanistan being overrun.
The central government was also facing a severe fiscal crisis as a result of the loss of customs revenues and declining aid flows. Many officials complained about not being paid for months.
Fear was also a factor. As momentum shifted in favour of the Taliban, aided by Taliban social media, the pace of events increased, fueled by fear of retaliation and personal scores being settled under the guise of a takeover, particularly in a large city like Kabul.
There was no counter-narrative provided by the Afghan government.
— Insider Paper (@TheInsiderPaper) August 15, 2021