U.S. Lacked ‘Political Will’, Resources To Build Up Afghan Forces, Report Finds
Biden, Trump administrations didn’t account for low morale, which was “one of the main contributors” to the collapse of Afghan National Defense and Security Forces amid the U.S. military withdrawal in 2021.
The U.S. didn’t appear to fully commit and secure proper planning, policies, and resources for its military withdrawal from Afghanistan, particularly when it came to developing another nation’s military, according to a newly released defense watchdog report.
Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko concluded the United States lacked the “political will” and “dedicated resources to initiate the wholesale development of another nation’s army,” he said in his final report, released Monday.
“As a result, the United States created an [Afghan National Defense and Security Forces] that could not operate independently and set unrealistic milestones for ANDSF capability development. The eventual collapse of the ANDSF was predictable.”
The report, which evaluated the 2021 collapse of Afghan security forces , placed blame on both the Trump and Biden administrations, saying the “decision by two U.S. presidents to withdraw U.S. military forces from Afghanistan fundamentally altered every subsequent decision by U.S. government agencies, the Ghani administration, and the Taliban.”
Additionally, the Trump administration’s agreement with the Taliban in 2020 “set in motion a series of events crucial to understanding the ANDSF’s collapse,” the report stated.
Among the criticisms: Because Afghan forces relied significantly on U.S. military support, morale fell once American troops left.
SIGAR determined that neither the U.S. nor Afghan government appeared politically committed to “doing what it would take to address the challenges, including devoting the time and resources necessary to develop a professional ANDSF,” during the 20 years of U.S. presence in the region.
And because it can take decades to build up security forces: “The February 2020 decision to commit to a rapid U.S. military withdrawal sealed the ANDSF’s fate,” the report states.
The 2021 withdrawal has garnered sustained criticism from Republicans, who have called it a “botched” mission. In a Feb. 17 letter to the White House, several House Republicans requested documents, assessments, records, and communications pertaining to the evacuation and its planning by March 3.
Biden administration allies have defended the decision, saying the outcome would have been the same even if U.S. troops stayed in the region for several more decades.
The report also points to corruption of government officials on the Afghan side and “lack of accountability and oversight by the United States, NATO, and the Afghan government itself” as contributing factors to the collapse.
Turnover among military leaders was high, and changes to force posture were made based on political considerations, rather than military experience, the report states. That compounded with other challenges Afghan forces faced, including low literacy rates, high attrition, casualties, ethnic and tribal divisions, and “personnel joining the force primarily for a U.S.-provided paycheck.”
But in the end, U.S. forces leaving dealt an unrecoverable blow: “Low troop morale, something the U.S. military did not take into account, was one of the main contributors to the ANDSF’s collapse. However, nothing affected morale more than the realization in February 2021 that U.S. military forces were leaving.”