The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has published a report entitled Why the Afghan Security Forces Collapsed. The report, issued in February 2023, is a 148-page long PDF. SIGAR looks at the causes of the failure of the Afghan government and the quick defeat of the Afghan National Defense Security Forces (ANDSF) in the summer of 2021. SIGAR has found there were immediate causes as well as some long-standing issues that resulted in the Taliban takeover of the entire country and the government.
The decisions of two U.S. presidents to withdraw from Afghanistan accelerated the collapse of the ANDSF in August 2021. But the stage for that collapse had been set years ago – by the failure of the U.S. and Afghan governments to create an independent and self-sustainable ANDSF. This, despite the provision of $90 billion of international support over twenty years.
The morale of the ANDSF was severely affected by these presidential decisions. The Doha agreement signed in February 2020 made it clear that the ANDSF was being left on its own – resulting in a sense of abandonment for the police and army – as well as the population.
U.S. airstrikes – a critical force mulitplier – were curtailed in the spring and summer of 2021; resulting in a degrading of ANDSF effectiveness on the battlefield against the Taliban. The Afghan security institutions and ANDSF were very dependent on western support – as they were established as mirror images of western fighting forces. The withdrawal of on-site contract maintenance for Afghan air platforms and ground vehicles had an immediate detrimental effect. This severly degraded the ability of the ANDSF to conduct medevacs, resupply, and troop movements in the air and on the ground. Combat units in remote locations suffered from lack of ammunition, food, water, and other types of sustainment.
This report covers so much more than that detailed in the previous paragraph. It begins with a background to the conflict, lists six short-term factors that accelerated the collapse of the ANDSF, and lists eight systemic factors that contributed to the ANDSF’s collapse.
Why the Afghan Security Forces Collapsed, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), February 2023, PDF, 148 pages.
Photo: Courtesy of Resolute Support, 11 August 2017.