The latest: The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) in a new report has stated that the abrupt, uncoordinated withdrawal from Afghanistan and years of problems with planning and oversight of U.S. assistance contributed to the collapse of the Western-backed government in Kabul and the Taliban takeover of the country soon after American forces departed. The United States failed to create “an independent and self-sustainable” security force there after 20 years and $90 billion spent, SIGAR said.
- Poor accountability on weapons and equipment provided to Afghanistan and a lack of systemic planning were also important factors in the military collapse there, as per SIGAR.
- The swift disintegration was brought on by the United States having no “political will” or “dedicated resources to initiate the wholesale development of another nation’s army,” Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko concluded in his final report.
- SIGAR also stated that the US Department of Defense delayed answering official inquiries, missed deadlines and provided incomplete answers to questions.
- The inspector general laid blame on U.S. administrations going back to George W. Bush, but the report cites as a pivotal turning point the 2020 Doha Agreement, when the Trump administration pledged to withdraw American troops and contractors from the country in exchange for guarantees from the Taliban.
- The report stated, “Afghan officials, who the inspectors said bear a large share of blame for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces collapse and Taliban takeover of the country, believed the Biden administration wouldn’t hew to the agreement, because they considered it a poorly negotiated deal.”
- The report went on to say that even the former Afghan officials seemed like they were waiting to handover Afghanistan to the Taliban, but the even more abrupt withdrawal than anticipated by Afghan allies, shocked everyone.
- The Defense Department said in a written response included in the report that it cooperated with the investigation, and disputed the characterization, saying it provided written responses to the inspector general’s questions.
- The Pentagon also disagreed with some of the report’s key findings, including that U.S. forces abruptly quit the country and cut off assistance to Afghan allies. In its response, included in the report, it said U.S. officials were in touch with Afghan leadership during the period before the withdrawal, assuring them it would continue to provide security assistance.
- The Afghan forces were dependent on U.S. contractors for support, including supply and maintenance, and when the U.S. pulled those personnel from the country in June 2021, the Afghans abruptly lost those capabilities, according to the inspector general.
- Among other issues cited in the report is that at least $7.2 billion of military equipment—a number that hasn’t been previously reported—including aircraft, missiles, communications gear, and biometric devices that were left behind under Taliban control in August 2021.
- The final tally of military equipment abandoned in Afghanistan can’t be confirmed, in part, because the electronic database used to track the materiel crashed in early 2021, investigators said in the report.
- The U.S. over two decades provided approximately $18.6 billion to equip the Afghan military.
Zoom out: The report comes after almost 1 and a half years since the fall of Kabul, when the US Congress directed the inspector general to find the causes of the quick collapse of Afghan armed forces.
- Months after taking office in 2021, President Joe Biden announced that he would pull the U.S. military from Afghanistan, a decision that followed the U.S.-Taliban agreement signed under the Trump administration in 2020 to do the same thing.