“US military officials privately harboured fundamental doubts for the duration of the war that the Afghan security forces could ever become competent or shed their dependency on U.S. money and firepower. ‘Thinking we could build the military that fast and that well was insane,’ an unnamed former US official told government interviewers in 2016.
Over two decades, the US government invested over $ 85 billion to train and equip the Afghans and pay their salaries. Today, all that’s left is arsenals of weapons, ammunition and supplies that have fallen into the hands of the enemy.
Though it was obvious from the beginning that the Afghans were struggling to make the US-designed system work, the Pentagon kept throwing money at the problem and assigning new generals to find a solution.
Recruiting was hard enough, but was compounded by startling rates of desertion and attrition. Another biggest hardship was having to teach virtually every recruit how to read.
Making everything harder was the Obama administration’s decision to rapidly expand the size of the Afghan security forces from 200,000 soldiers and police officers to 350,000. With recruits at a premium, Afghans were rushed through boot camp, even if they couldn’t shoot or perform other basic tasks.
As the years passed, it became apparent that the strategy was failing. Yet US military commanders kept insisting in public that everything was going according to plan.”
So upbeat about their intervention in Afghanistan the US administration was before they beat a hasty retreat this week from the rocky country that US Army’s Lt Gen William Caldwell IV Caldwell, the head of their and NATO’s training command in the invaded land told the Council on Foreign Relations in June 2011, “We’ve made tremendous strides, incredible progress… They’re probably the best-trained, the best-equipped and the best-led of any forces we’ve developed yet inside of Afghanistan. They only continue to get better with time.”
Statements for public consumption aside, the Americans always doubted their Afghanistan ops would yield intended results. Their army officials privately expressed elementary doubts about the duration of the war. They suspected the security forces under US training would never become competent or shed their dependency on American money and equipment. “Thinking we could build the military that fast and that well was insane,” an unnamed former US official told government interviewers in 2016 ― according to the WaPo article.
The collapse of the official forces of Afghanistan this month made the worst fears of Americans come true, much as the US officials, politicians and spokespersons are still maintaining a façade of business-as-usual comportment. Under the not-so-watchful eyes of US and NATO forces, Taliban, in the meantime, made deals with the Afghan forces who had anyway been wondering why they should fight fellow Islamists.
Not that the Americans were clear-headed about their two-decade old endeavour to set things right in Afghanistan. As clumsy as in their 30 years in Vietnam, “We kept changing guys who were in charge of training the Afghan forces, and every time a new guy came in, he changed the way that they were being trained,” Robert Gates, who served as defence secretary during the Bush and Obama administrations, said in an oral-history interview with scholars at the University of Virginia, says Whitlock in WaPo. “The one thing they all had in common was they were all trying to train a Western army instead of figuring out the strengths of the Afghans as a fighting people and then building on that,” the American author wrote.
Then there was corruption, a lack of motivation and depravity in the Afghan ranks. WaPo says that the first Afghan battalion commander whom Maj Greg Escobar, a US Army infantry officer, mentored in 2011 lost his job after he was charged with raping one of his male soldiers. The commander’s replacement, in turn, was killed by his own men.
The newspaper cites Maj Mark Glaspell, an army engineer with the 101st Airborne Division who served as a mentor to Afghan forces from 2010 to 2011, to say that even simple exercises ― like how to exit a CH-47 Chinook, a heavy-lift helicopter used to transport troops and supplies ― proved uphill tasks for the Afghan trainees and the mock exercises mostly went awry. In the instance of the training with a dummy Chinook, for example, the Afghan trainees got into a brawl and their American trainer left the spot exasperated.
The greatest problem of all was their illiteracy. The American trainers struggled throughout the 20 odd years to make people who would constitute the official police and army personnel read. But then, the Americans never told the rest of the world this was happening to them in Afghanistan until now.