From troops’ withdrawal to corruption; US, Afghan govt share in blame for ANDSF collapse: Report

ISLAMABAD, May 23 (APP): The United States’ decision for military withdrawal, corruption of the Afghan government, and lack of ownership led to the collapse of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), according to a report.

In its interim report titled, “Collapse of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces: An Assessment of the Factors That Led to Its Demise,” the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) pointed out the reasons why, after 20 years and nearly $90 billion in US security assistance, the ANDSF was ill-prepared to sustain security following the US withdrawal.

The report clearly dispels the impression created by some elements shifting the blame for the takeover of Taliban to Pakistan, clearly stating the single most important near-term factor in the ANDSF’s collapse was the US decision to withdraw the US military and contractors from Afghanistan through the US-Taliban agreement in February 2020.

In total, for the United States alone, the mission spanned four US presidents, 10 ambassadors, seven Secretaries of State, eight Secretaries of Defense, 12 CSTC-A commanders, eight CENTCOM commanders, and 18 US and coalition ISAF/Resolute Support commanders.

Counting the corruption among major factors, the report stated that the Afghan government’s corruption harmed the ANDSF capabilities and morale.

From troops’ withdrawal to corruption; US, Afghan govt share in blame for ANDSF collapse: Report

In June 2020, the Department of Defence determined that corruption remained a “key vulnerability” in ANDSF combat power and combat readiness. The theft of resources like fuel, funded through the Afghan Security Forces Fund (ASFF), underscored this vulnerability.

“Corrupt ANDSF officials at all institutional levels degraded security, force readiness, and overall capabilities… In Afghanistan the culture of impunity generally started at the top and then normalized extortion, embezzlement, fraud, and other abusive behaviors within the entire system.

It said no single country or agency had complete ownership of the ANDSF development; the length of U.S. commitment did not reflect the actual time required to build an entire security sector and that the advisors were often ill-trained and inexperienced for their mission.

Moreover, the US created long-term dependencies by taking over equipment procurement for the ANDSF and providing it with advanced equipment it could not independently sustain.  

Another factor was the failure of the US and Afghan governments to develop the police force and Afghan officials’ lack of ownership of military strategies.

After 20 years of training and development, the ANDSF never became a cohesive, substantive force capable of operating on its own.

“The US and Afghan governments share in the blame. Neither side appeared to have the political commitment to doing what it would take to address the challenges, including devoting the time and resources necessary to develop a professional ANDSF, a multi-generational process,” the report said.

In essence, it said the US created a false reality with the ANDSF. On the Afghan side, corruption dominated government officials who often focused on personal gain at the country’s expense.

Due to a lack of accountability and oversight by US, NATO, and Afghan government, a culture of impunity swept its way through the security sector.

“Unless the U.S. government understands and accounts for what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how it went wrong in Afghanistan, it will likely repeat the same mistakes in the next conflict,” SIGRA said.

Moreover, former President Ashraf Ghani frequently changed ANDSF leaders and appointed loyalists, while marginalizing well-trained ANDSF officers aligned with the United States.

Contrary to the accusations against it, Pakistan always desired peace, stability and development in Afghanistan and sincerely worked to achieve this objective.

Pakistan believes that being the immediate neighbor, its peace and progress are directly linked to peace and development in Afghanistan.

APP Digital Report by Ishtiaq Ahmed