Kabul, Afghanistan – The United States decision to withdraw forces and contractors from Afghanistan through an agreement with the Taliban was the biggest factor that led to the collapse of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), watchdog report finds.
The agreement to withdraw troops from Afghanistan last August was signed by the Trump administration and executed by the Biden administration, paving the way for a rebirth of the Taliban regime after nearly two decades.
The withdrawal “destroyed” the morale of the Afghan military as it was dependent on U.S. military support, according to an assessment by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which was made public late Tuesday.
“SIGAR found that the single most important factor in the ANDSF’s (Afghan National Defense and Security Forces) collapse in August 2021 was the U.S. decision to withdraw military forces and contractors from Afghanistan through signing the U.S.-Taliban agreement in February 2020 under the Trump administration, followed by President Biden’s withdrawal announcement in April 2021,” the report said, as Reuters quoted.
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The SIGAR account focused on the impact of two critical events that it said doomed the Afghan forces: the February 2020 Doha agreement between the Trump administration and the Taliban, and then Biden’s April 2021 decision to pull out all US troops by September, without leaving a residual force, as the Guardian wrote.
“The ANDSF had long relied on the US military’s presence to protect against large-scale ANDSF losses, and Afghan troops saw the United States as a means of holding their government accountable for paying their salaries,” the inspector general said.
“The US-Taliban agreement made it clear that this was no longer the case, resulting in a sense of abandonment within the ANDSF and the Afghan population.”
The ANDSF were dependent on US troops and contractors because that was how the forces were developed, the report argued, noting “the United States designed the ANDSF as a mirror image of US forces”.
The US Congress created the office of SIGAR to provide an oversight of reconstruction projects and activities during the war in Afghanistan.
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In 2001, the US overthrew the Taliban regime to defeat al-Qaida, a goal it largely accomplished. The US also sought to vanquish the Taliban and leave behind a pluralistic, human-rights-respecting, and economically-sustainable Afghan state.
But it failed in those objectives, as the Taliban on August 15, 2021 took control of Afghanistan, rolling back the foremost achievements of the post-2001 reconstruction efforts on overall growth of the country, including women’s right and education.