Was the collapse of the Afghan security forces predictable?
Speaking Security Newsletter | Advisory Note for Organizers and Candidates, n°111 | 9 September 2021
Forthcoming investigations by US House and Senate foreign policy committees will scrutinize the execution of the US exit from Afghanistan and why the Biden administration was caught so off-guard by the rapid collapse of the Afghan security forces.
Regarding the latter, it’s not like Congress knew it would fall apart either, otherwise the defense appropriations subcommittee wouldn’t have obligated $3.04 billion in military aid to the Afghan security forces (down from Biden’s request of $3.3 billion, but still, this was well after Biden announced his decision to withdraw US forces).
Should Biden/Congress have anticipated the collapse of the Afghan security forces?
Yes. Among the reasons identified by SIGAR, force retention stands out as a major red flag. Here’s SIGAR in its most recent report:
“[R]etention was a major challenge for the ANSDF, with one estimate suggesting that Afghan National Army attrition stood at 2% per month, or roughly 24% per year in the mid-to-late 2000s.”
“By 2020, Afghan security forces were still replacing a quarter of the force annually,”
“Solders [sic] going AWOL was one of the challenges driving those elevated attrition rates.”
The problem was that US military leaders had “come to view [replacing ¼ of the ANSDF annually] as normal” and expressed that flippant disposition to Biden/Congress, assuring them that this was OK, or could be reconciled with [still more] anti-corruption efforts.
...When really it should have prompted a question about the wisdom of outsourcing the US’ military presence/violence to proxies. Fear of personal safety was documented by SIGAR as a major reason members of the Afghan security forces went AWOL. And who could blame them—the US military treating the ANSDF like cannon fodder was entrenched as official US policy.
Thanks for your time,