A 20-Year Debacle in Afghanistan

todayMarch 21, 2022

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Now that we all know how the US’ generation-long misadventure in Afghanistan ended, one Military officer’s expertise in 2005, recounted in Craig Whitlock’s glorious and miserable The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret Historical past of the Struggle, takes on an elevated salience. About 4 years into the battle, Maj. Charles Abeyawardena, a strategic planner based mostly on the Military’s Middle for Classes Realized at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., flew to the battle zone to review the ill-fated effort to create a contemporary Afghan military. The duty was already proving to be troublesome, however the US authorities remained hopeful—as it will, formally no less than, for an additional 15 years—that the nascent Afghan safety forces would ultimately turn out to be able to conserving the nation steady on their very own, enabling the US to withdraw with honor.

Abeyawardena’s mandate was to interview the Individuals and senior Afghan officers concerned within the work of recruiting, coaching, and deploying the Afghan military. However he took it upon himself to speak as effectively to some rank-and-file Afghan troopers. When Abeyawardena requested them why they’d enlisted, the solutions they gave weren’t in contrast to the explanations American troops sometimes cited: They have been searching for a stable paycheck, or they wished to serve their nation, or they have been profiting from an opportunity to do one thing new and totally different. But when Abeyawardena probed additional, Whitlock writes, the responses foreshadowed severe hassle:

When he adopted up by asking whether or not they would keep within the Afghan military after the US left, the solutions startled him. “The bulk, virtually everybody I talked to, stated, ‘No,’” Abeyawardena stated in an Military oral-history interview. “They have been going to return and develop opium or marijuana or one thing like that, as a result of that’s the place the cash is. That threw me for an entire loop.”

A decade and a half of grinding counterinsurgency warfare and costly nation-building efforts later, President Donald Trump made a cope with the Taliban underneath which the US would withdraw its forces in 2021. In return, the Taliban promised to not let Afghanistan as soon as once more turn out to be a secure haven for Al Qaeda or different terrorist teams. In addition they promised that, within the interim, they might cease attacking American troops and have interaction in peace talks with the Afghan authorities. Then, after Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, made it clear that he would comply with by way of on a lot of the main elements of the deal, setting the date for deliberate withdrawal solely 4 months later than initially agreed on, the Afghan nationwide military swiftly deserted the battlefield, allowing the Taliban to take the capital, Kabul, basically with out firing an extra shot.

Amid the following chaotic effort to evacuate Westerners who had ignored earlier warnings to get out and Afghans who had helped the American-led NATO effort, officers on the Pentagon and the White Home supplied a relatively sheepish excuse for the evident lack of planning and preparation for this endgame: The intelligence evaluation had been that the Afghan authorities would probably endure for a for much longer interval after the withdrawal, leaving extra time to get folks out of hurt’s manner. If that’s the case, the lesson arising from Maj. Abeyawardena’s analysis had not been realized: The Afghan military risked changing into a Potemkin group whose operate was as a lot about absorbing American money as offering an everlasting safety basis for that nation’s future.

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