Losing “all the goodwill of 20 years”
In President Biden’s appearance yesterday after the horrific terrorist attack in Afghanistan, one of the things he said was this:
The fact is that we’re in a situation, we inherited the situation, particularly since, as we all know, that the Afghan military collapsed before in 11 days…
It was hardly the first time that Biden has blamed the Afghan military. In fact, ten days earlier in the crisis (on August 16) he said the following:
The Afghan military gave up, sometimes without trying to fight…
…How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghans – Afghanistan’s civil war, when Afghan troops will not?
The story as Biden tells it is that the Afghan military is made of cowards who run at the hint of a fight, leaving Americans to fight and die in their place. But Biden is leaving out quite a bit, to say the least. This story on the importance of air power to the Afghan military is a month old, and it takes on even greater significance in retrospect:
Airpower is important to military operations in Afghanistan because forces attempting to capture and hold territory will have to mass together to do so, said Seth Jones, director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies…
Air dominance also provides the Afghan military and national police with rapid transportation. Coalition and Afghan helicopters and transport planes can drop hundreds of troops and tons of supplies in remote locations that are otherwise inaccessible because of difficult terrain or Taliban presence…
So aircraft was key to the entire defense system, as the US was well aware. And civilian contractors were vital to the maintenance of those aircraft:
To keep its aircraft flying, the AAF relies on hundreds of private civilian contractors brought in to train AAF personnel and maintain the aircraft until they are ready to do it themselves…
Those contractors are expected to leave around the same time that the last US troops withdraw, which President Joe Biden has said will be by the end of August.
According to the SIGAR report, the NATO command that oversees the training and build-up of the AAF concluded in January that “without continued contractor support, none of the AAF’s airframes can be sustained as combat effective for more than a few months.”
Under time pressure from the imminent withdrawal, they tried to quickly teach the Afghans how to maintain their own aircraft:
The training still needed and the shrinking timetable has made Zoom training a reasonable alternative despite challenges of such a hands-off instruction method, but the Afghan military also has to make sure that the AAF continues to receive the spare parts, engines, fuel, ammunition, replacement aircraft, and other material it needs…
As it turns out, they didn’t even have till the end of August. You may already know what happened:
As the U.S. withdrawal took hold, the Biden administration refused to allow contractors into the country to service the aircraft, effectively grounding some of the Afghan Air Force at the same time as the U.S. had withdrawn direct air support to Afghan forces.
I assume that the Biden administration would try to claim they did this because the Trump agreement with the Taliban included a plan for “trainers, advisers, and supporting services personnel” to ultimately depart. However, we know that Biden was not irrevocably bound by Trump’s agreement – in fact, one of the most basic principles of his administration seems to have been to cancel or reverse virtually everything Trump ever did. More importantly, Trump’s agreement contained contingencies that the Taliban had to fulfill before the US forces would be leaving. Here’s what Pompeo has said about that:
For his part, Mr. Pompeo has repeatedly suggested that the Trump administration would have thrown the brakes on an American departure from the country as the Taliban pursued military conquest.
“We made abundantly clear if they did not live up to that piece of paper, to the words that they had put on the ground, we weren’t going to allow them to just walk away from any deal that they had struck, we were going to go crush them,” he said on “Fox News Sunday” over the weekend.
But Mr. Pompeo did not offer specifics about how the Taliban had violated the deal. The next day, he told the Fox Business Network that the Trump administration “would have demanded that the Taliban actually deliver on the conditions that we laid out in the agreement,” saying the Taliban had agreed “to engage in a meaningful power-sharing agreement, something that we struggled to get them to do.”
During the four years of his administration – and even prior to that, in his long career as a businessman – Trump was never averse to walking away from deals if the other party didn’t live up to its side of the bargain. And he had no trouble pressuring and using force when necessary.
Not only did Biden fail to negotiate in that manner, but under his direction, the US military also precipitously abandoned Bagram Airfield. This is a description datelined July 6th:
The U.S. left Afghanistan’s Bagram Airfield after nearly 20 years by shutting off the electricity and slipping away in the night without notifying the base’s new Afghan commander, who discovered the Americans’ departure more than two hours after they left, Afghan military officials said…
“We (heard) some rumor that the Americans had left Bagram … and finally by seven o’clock in the morning, we understood that it was confirmed that they had already left Bagram,” Gen. Mir Asadullah Kohistani, Bagram’s new commander said…
“In one night, they lost all the goodwill of 20 years by leaving the way they did, in the night, without telling the Afghan soldiers who were outside patrolling the area,” said Afghan soldier Naematullah, who asked that only his one name be used.
If you want to know at least one of the probable reasons why Afghan forces surrendered so quickly to the Taliban, ponder that statement: In one night, [the Americans] lost all the goodwill of 20 years by leaving the way they did.
But it was even worse than that because Bagram wasn’t just an airfield. It was also the site of Bagram Prison where, as Vijeta Uniyal wrote on August 16:
Around 5,000 top terrorists fled when Afghan government forces surrendered Bagram Air Base, 40 miles from Kabul. The prison at the base housed some of the world’s most notorious jihadis besides the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention center.
“Afghan forces at Bagram Air Base, home to a prison housing 5,000 inmates, surrendered to the Taliban, according to Bagram district chief Darwaish Raufi,” The Associated Press reported on Monday. “The prison at the former U.S. base held both Taliban and Islamic State group fighters.”
Yesterday we probably saw some the effects of that decision, and unfortunately we may see more of them in the not-too-distant future.
Caroline Glick adds:
This brings us to Biden’s devastating critique of the Afghan military, which he claimed was unwilling to defend the country. Over the past 20 years, 2,448 U.S. servicemen and women were killed in Afghanistan. Over the same period, 69,000 Afghan forces died defending their country from the Taliban. His statement amounted to malicious slander.
One of the main functions of the U.S. forces and contractors Biden removed was to serve as military air traffic controllers for Afghan forces. Their departure meant the Afghan military lost its close air support. And since the U.S. built the Afghan military as its mini-me, like the U.S. forces, Afghan forces were dependent on close air support to conduct land operations.
In other words, Biden is more responsible than anyone else for the Afghans’ post-American collapse. If he expected them to fight, he shouldn’t have left them dependent on U.S. traffic controllers which he withdrew without coordination or warning of any kind.
It is well-known that there were other serious problems with the Afghan military. But if there ever was a chance that they could have successfully defended their country against the Taliban, or even just staved off the inevitable long enough for the US and its allies to get their people out, that chance was taken away by these actions of the Biden administration.
It is as though our exit strategy in Afghanistan was designed to be as bad as possible.
[Neo is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at the new neo.]DONATE
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