Watchdog: US Withdrawal Is ‘Most Important Factor’ In Taliban Takeover Of Afghanistan

The withdrawal of US forces initiated by President Trump and accelerated under President Biden was the “single most important factor” in the rapid collapse of the US-backed government in Afghanistan and the takeover of the country by the radical Islamist Taliban government on last summer, according to a new report from the top US watchdog on the failed 20-year US mission in Kabul.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government forces collapsed months after Biden set September 11, 2021 as the date for the total withdrawal of US troops, culminating in a final chaotic and bloody departure of the last US soldiers to end of August. even as the Taliban were taking control of the capital.

US analysts said they were surprised by the rapid collapse of the Afghan military, but the interim report from the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said the US declaration to leave in early 2020 after two decades of fighting undermined the Afghans. ‘ will to fight.

“Many Afghans thought the US-Taliban deal was an act of bad faith and a sign that the US was handing Afghanistan over to the enemy while rushing out of the country,” the SIGAR report said. “Its immediate effect was a dramatic loss in [Afghan troops’] moral.”

Equally debilitating for Afghan forces was the simultaneous departure in 2021 of US private contractors used by the Pentagon and the Afghan government to work with local forces, effectively grounding the Afghan air force.

“We built that army to function with the support of contractors,” the SIGAR report quoted a former US commander as saying. “Without it, it can’t function. When the contractors backed out, it was like we pulled all the sticks out of the Jenga pile and hoped it would stick.”

Both Trump and Biden were deeply skeptical about the long-term viability of the US military mission in Afghanistan, where the Taliban insurgency still controlled much of the countryside after years of fighting and US investment of some $90 billion in the military. Afghan. . In February 2021, the Trump administration reached an agreement with Taliban leaders in Doha, Qatar, to withdraw US forces by May 2021 in exchange for a cessation of attacks and promises of talks with the Ghani government.

Pentagon leaders opposed an abrupt withdrawal, but Biden only agreed to push back the withdrawal deadline from May to September, setting off what SIGAR auditors said was a retreat-and-defeat spiral for the Trump administration. Kabul. Promised peace talks with the Taliban never came close to producing a workable compromise deal.

Some of Trump’s aides have argued that the Biden administration ignored many of the conditions placed on the Taliban in the original deal and that Trump would not have agreed to a full withdrawal on the same timetable had he been re-elected.

The unforeseen total collapse of the Afghan military has raised questions on Capitol Hill about the quality of the Biden administration’s intelligence analysis and has also produced a sharp drop in Biden’s own popularity ratings, a drop from which he has yet to recover. complete.

SIGAR director John Sopko has earned a reputation as a fierce critic of the US military and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, often angering Pentagon leaders with his caustic and pessimistic assessments.

The SIGAR report issued this week said that, in the end, neither Washington nor Kabul was willing to provide what was necessary to win the war.

The US and Afghan governments “lacked the political will to commit the time and resources to rebuild an entire security sector in an impoverished and war-torn country. [Neither government] he seemed to have the political commitment to do whatever was necessary to address the challenges.”

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