OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author’s opinion
Since President Joe Biden announced his plan to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan in April, he has repeatedly claimed that the Afghan security forces totaled more than 300,000 troops capable of taking on a Taliban incursion, which had already been gaining ground in the region following their initial defeat at the hands of the US military.
Biden repeated the 300,000 figure multiple times since he has been in office – first in April 14 when he announced his plan, and then again when he reaffirmed his decision to pull out troops on July 8.
He made the same claim in August 10 after Taliban made advances to take the nation’s provincial capitals.
After Kabul, the nation’s capital, fell to the Taliban on Monday, Biden repeated the figure in his speech addressing Americans about the state of the now-disastrous withdrawal.
American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves. We spent over a trillion dollars. We trained and equipped an Afghan military force of some 300,000 strong. Incredibly well equipped. A force larger in size than the militaries of many of our NATO allies. We gave them every tool they could need. We paid their salaries, provided for the maintenance of their air force, something the Taliban doesn’t have. Taliban does not have an air force. We provided close air support. We gave them every chance to determine their own future. What we could not provide them was the will to fight for that future.
Despite Biden’s claims, the 300,000 figure that would make the Afghan military roughly the same size of Turkey’s military and larger than almost every NATO member state – raising the question as to how such a powerful military could fall before some 80,000 members of the Taliban, none of whom would be ostensibly as well equipped as the US-trained military force.
To answer that question, the Washington Post’s resident fact checker Glenn Kessler says that the number is, simply put “an inflated number.”
The Washington Post states that if the Afghanistan security forces were in fact made up of more than 300,000 military troops, the active force would be bigger than every NATO ally but Turkey.
A report by the International Institute of Strategic Studies shows Afghanistan with an active force of only 178,800 to 171,500 in the army and 7,300 in the air force.
“Reports suggested that already high losses and high levels of desertion further increased in 2020,” the report said, per Kessler. “There was reported 22% personal shortage in mid-2019, and there are problems in retaining key specialists including pilots and special-operations troops.”
The IISS also notes that the country has 99,000 “paramilitary” forces, which includes members of the Afghan National Police. However, NATO countries do not have such forces so “it does not make much sense to include them as part of the total.”
A report by the Anthony Cordesman for the Center for the strategic and International Studies suggests that despite the size of the police, the forces vary in quality and “could not play an effective paramilitary role or properly hold even supposedly secure areas.”
“These ANP totaled 96,788 in October 2019; 121,088 in January 2021; and dropped to 118,628 in April 2021. Some fought bravely in the period before U.S. force cuts began, but most collapsed or deserted in the face of any serious Taliban action, and significant numbers deserted or changed sides when the Taliban took control over a given District,” Cordesman wrote.
He added that even the numbers of the Afghan military cannot be taken at face value as the few units that were effective in combat against the Taliban were “increasingly stressed by excessive combat assignments as well as by political allocation to other assignments of marginal value.”
“Only a small fraction of the 182,071 personnel supposedly in the Army and Air Force could be used effectively, and the total force suffered a 25% annual turnover rate due to losses and desertions by 2020,” Cordesman wrote.
Cordesman further informed the Washington Post that there are no figures for effective military personnel, and the units have taken “serious casualties that have increased with each cutback in US support, plus suffered from cuts in foreign contract support, so the current totals are probably uncertain.”
Another expert who spoke to the Washington Post said that the Afghan security forces have suffered from a variety of issues, including changing metrics that included “ghost soldiers who didn’t exist,” as well as poor logistics, and the military’s inability to sustain the equipment provided by the US military – quite contradictory to Biden’s claims on July 8 that “the Afghan troops have 300,000 well-equipped — as well-equipped as any army in the world — and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban.”
Biden also stressed in that speech that the US would continue to provide funding and equipment to the military and ensure that they have the capacity to maintain their air force.
As New York Magazine reported on Tuesday, this was untrue as American contractors largely pulled out of Afghanistan weeks ago, depriving them of essential intelligence and maintenance services critical to the operation of the air force.
Crucially, Biden provided an inflated number when he referred to the size of the Afghan military capable of taking on the Taliban, emphasizing that the actual number is closer to fewer than 30,000.
The president is including police forces, which are not part of the military and have often heightened insecurity with their tactics. Even among the active military, there is high turnover and only a small core of professionals which could be expected to fight professionally against the Taliban. In other words, the number is not 300,000 — and probably not even 30,000.
By repeatedly using this figure, the president is misleading Americans about the capabilities of the Afghan military — which has now demonstrated it could not defend Afghanistan from the Taliban offensive.
Article Source : Conservativebrief.com