The US decision to leave Afghanistan under both the Trump and Biden administrations was the driving factor behind the swift collapse of the Afghan military as the Taliban swept across the country with stunning speed last summer, according to a scathing new inspector general report released Wednesday.
The interim report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction called the US decision to withdraw – conceived by the Trump administration in 2020 and implemented by the Biden administration in 2021 – the “single most important factor” behind the collapse of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
The inspector general’s report, which also cast significant blame on decisions made by former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, is one of the deepest examinations to date at the reasons behind the stunning fall of the Afghan government last summer that saw the Taliban rapidly take control of Afghanistan amid a full US withdrawal following a 20-year war.
The interim report is another damning indictment of the failed planning and strategy that plagued America’s vision for Afghanistan, even as special inspector general John Sopko wrote that the eventual collapse was “predictable.” The US repeatedly set goals for the Afghan military that were unattainable, implemented metrics that delivered success while obfuscating the real problems and poured resources into solutions that only exacerbated the issues they were meant to fix.
“After 20 years of training and development, the ANDSF never became a cohesive, substantive force capable of operating on its own. The U.S. and Afghan governments share in the blame,” the inspector general wrote. “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. In essence, U.S. and Afghan efforts to cultivate an effective and sustainable security sector were likely to fail from the beginning. The February 2020 decision to commit to a rapid U.S. military withdrawal sealed the ANDSF’s fate.”
The Doha agreement, signed between the Trump administration and the Taliban in February 2020, shattered the fragile morale of the Afghan military, according to the SIGAR report. The Pentagon, over 20 years, had attempted to create a “mirror image to the US military,” the report found – something that never materialized and would have required years more training and assistance.
By 2020, Afghan forces still relied far too heavily on US personnel and support, despite $90 billion of investment by the United States over the course of the war.