The Afghan military took 20 years to develop. How did it come crashing down so quickly?

The Afghan military’s disintegration was initially seen months ago, in the form of a series of setbacks that began even before President Joe Biden’s declaration that the US would depart by September 11th.
Surrenders appear to be occurring as quickly as the Taliban can travel.
Under the strain of a Taliban assault that began in May, Afghan security forces have crumbled in more than 15 cities in the last few days. Officials confirmed on Friday that two of the country’s most significant provincial capitals, Kandahar and Herat, were among those targeted.
The Taliban have displayed millions of dollars of US-supplied equipment on shaky smartphone recordings as a result of the quick onslaught, which has resulted in mass surrenders, seized helicopters, and captured millions of dollars of US-supplied equipment. Heavy combat had been going on on the outside of several cities for weeks, but the Taliban eventually overcame their defensive lines and strolled in with little or no opposition.
Despite the fact that the US has spent more than $83 billion on guns, equipment, and training for the country’s security forces over the last two decades, the country’s security forces have imploded.
Building the Afghan security apparatus was a crucial component of the Obama administration’s strategy when it was trying to figure out how to take over security and leave Afghanistan over a decade ago. These efforts resulted in the creation of an army fashioned after the US military, an Afghan institution that was to outlive the American war.
However, it will most certainly vanish before the United States.
While Afghanistan’s future appears to be becoming increasingly uncertain, one thing is becoming abundantly clear: the United States’ 20-year effort to rebuild Afghanistan’s military into a robust and independent fighting force has failed, and that failure is now being played out in real time as the country falls under Taliban control.
The Afghan military’s disintegration was initially seen months ago, in the form of a series of setbacks that began even before President Joe Biden’s declaration that the US would depart by September 11th.
It started with isolated outposts in rural areas, where starving and ammunition-depleted soldiers and police units were surrounded by Taliban fighters and promised safe passage if they surrendered and left their equipment behind, gradually handing over control of roads, then entire districts, to the insurgents. As positions fell apart, the most common criticism was that there was no air assistance or that supplies and food had run out.
But even before that, the structural vulnerabilities of the Afghan security force — which on paper numbered about 300,000 personnel but, according to US officials, have shrunk to approximately one-sixth of that in recent days. These inadequacies may be attributed to a slew of difficulties stemming from the West’s emphasis on constructing a fully modern military, along with all the logistical and supply challenges that entails, which has proven unsustainable without the US and its NATO allies.
Soldiers and police officers have indicated growing dissatisfaction with the Afghan administration. Officials frequently turned a blind eye to what was going on, well aware that the Afghan forces’ true personnel count was considerably lower than what was on the books, distorted by corruption and concealment that they silently tolerated.
And, when the US announced its exit, the Taliban gained momentum, reinforcing the idea that fighting in the security forces — fighting for President Ashraf Ghani’s administration — was not worth dying for. Soldiers and police officers reported times of anguish and desertion in interview after interview.
Last week, the Afghan security forces’ seeming failure to stave off the Taliban’s catastrophic onslaught came down to potatoes on one front line in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.
After weeks of battle, a police unit’s daily meals were meant to be one cardboard box full of slimy potatoes. They hadn’t eaten anything except spuds in various varieties for many days, and hunger and exhaustion were getting to them.

“These French fries are not going to hold these front lines!” a police officer yelled, disgusted by the lack of support they were receiving in the country’s second-largest city.
“They’re just trying to finish us off,” said Abdulhai, 45, a police chief who was holding Kandahar’s northern front line last week.
Since 2001, Afghan security forces have lost well over 60,000 men. But Abdulhai was not referring to the Taliban; rather, he was referring to his own administration, which he thought was so incompetent that it had to be part of a larger scheme to hand over territory to the Taliban.
The months of setbacks seemed to come to a climax on Wednesday, when the Taliban captured the whole headquarters of an Afghan army corps — the 217th — at Kunduz’s airport. A decommissioned helicopter gunship was taken by the rebels. Photographs of a US-supplied drone seized by the Taliban, as well as images showing rows of armored vehicles, circulated on the internet.
Brig. Gen. Abbas Tawakoli, commander of the 217th Afghan Army corps, who was in a nearby province when his base fell, echoed Abdulhai’s sentiments as reasons for his troops’ defeat on the battlefield.
“Unfortunately, knowingly and unknowingly, a number of Parliament members and politicians fanned the flame started by the enemy,” Tawakoli said, just hours after the Taliban had posted videos of their fighters looting the general’s sprawling base.
“No region fell as a result of the war, but as a result of the psychological war,” he said.
That psychological battle has been waged on several fronts.
Afghan pilots claim that their leadership is more concerned with the condition of the planes than with the people who fly them: men and at least one woman who are exhausted from countless missions evacuating outposts, often under fire, all while the Taliban wage a brutal assassination campaign against them.
The elite commando soldiers that remain are shuttled from one region to the next, with no defined purpose and little sleep.
Nearly all of the ethnically affiliated militia organizations that have gained notoriety as forces capable of bolstering government lines have been overrun.
Sheberghan, in Afghanistan’s north, was the second city to fall this week, a capital that was meant to be guarded by a powerful army led by Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum, an infamous warlord and former Afghan vice president who has survived 40 years of conflict by striking deals and switching sides.
Another warlord, Mohammad Ismail Khan, a prominent Afghan warlord and former governor, surrendered to the Taliban on Friday. Khan had resisted Taliban attacks in western Afghanistan for weeks and rallied many to his cause to push back the insurgent offensive.
“We are drowning in corruption,” said Abdul Haleem, 38, a police officer on the Kandahar front line earlier this month. His special operations unit was at half strength — 15 out of 30 people — and several of his comrades who remained on the front were there because their villages had been captured.
“How are we supposed to defeat the Taliban with this amount of ammunition?” he said. The heavy machine gun, for which his unit had very few bullets, broke later that night.
As of Thursday, it was unclear if Haleem was still alive and what remained of his comrades.

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