'Afghan army lost its will to fight because...': Commander Sami Sadat on why they failed in front of Taliban

Sami Sadat, the Lieutenant-general of the Afghanistan army, wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times in which he detailed how the Afghan army fought valiantly day in and day out, unlike what the world may think.
Sami Sadat, in his opinion piece for the New York Times, wrote that the Afghan army was betrayed by politics and presidents.(AFP)
Sami Sadat, in his opinion piece for the New York Times, wrote that the Afghan army was betrayed by politics and presidents.(AFP)
Published on Aug 25, 2021 10:30 PM IST
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By | Written by Poulomi Ghosh

In an opinion piece for the New York Times, Sami Sadat, the Lieutenant-general of the Afghanistan army which was decimated in front of the Taliban, said the Afghan army lost its will to fight because of the "growing sense of abandonment" by the American partners. In a first such disclosure after the Taliban completed its capture of the country on August 15 raising question over the efficiency of the Afghan army, the commander said his army was fighting cronyism and bureaucracy, but when US president Joe Biden said that US troops can not and should not be fighting for Afghanistan, the Afghan army lost the will to fight.

"I am a three-star general in the Afghan Army. For 11 months, as commander of 215 Maiwand Corps, I led 15,000 men in combat operations against the Taliban in southwestern Afghanistan. I’ve lost hundreds of officers and soldiers. That’s why, as exhausted and frustrated as I am, I wanted to offer a practical perspective and defend the honour of the Afghan Army. I’m not here to absolve the Afghan Army of mistakes. But the fact is, many of us fought valiantly and honourably, only to be let down by American and Afghan leadership," the 36-year-old chief wrote at a time when the victory of the Taliban is being seen as "without resistance".

Also Read | Taliban take control of Afghanistan: Why the country's army melted away

Sami says he was in the battle at Lashkar Gah when Ashraf Ghani named him the commander of Afghanistan special forces. He had to leave his troops there to come to Kabul. It was August 15. It was too late as the Taliban had already reached Kabul. Then Ghani entrusted him with the task of securing Kabul and left the country. "But I never even had a chance: The Taliban were closing in, and Mr Ghani fled the country," Sami wrote, depicting what unfolded on August 15. On that very night, Ghani left the country. Later, Ghani clarified that it was not an act of escape. He was forced to leave the country to avoid bloodshed, he said.

With Ghani leaving the country, there was no chance of negotiation for an interim set-up, Sami wrote asserting that unlike what the world may believe, the Afghan army resisted, day in and day out.

Still, the army failed and, according to Sami, there are three reasons for this failure. The first begins with the US and Donald Trump's Doha peace deal. Second, the Afghan army lost contractor logistics and maintenance support and the third is the corruption of the Ashraf Ghani government, the army chief wrote

"The US air-support rules of engagement for Afghan security forces effectively changed overnight, and the Taliban were emboldened. They could sense victory and knew it was just a matter of waiting out the Americans. Before that deal, the Taliban had not won any significant battles against the Afghan Army. After the agreement? We were losing dozens of soldiers a day," Sadat wrote. By July, most of the 17,000 support contractors had left, he said.

Recounting the final days of the war, Sadat said that it was surreal-- while the afghan army was fighting with its depleting resources against the Taliban, the US pilots were circling overhead as they were apparently not in a position to help them. Terming the war as an international one, Sadat wrote that it was not possible for any single army to fight. It was a military defeat but the reason is political failure. "We were betrayed by politics and presidents," he wrote.

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